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Transportation – Causes of Derailment

Reasons why a train derails

Causes of Derailment

Derailment occurs when a train runs off or leaves its track. Even minor derailments disrupt the proper operation of the railway system. They are responsible for many accidents and impose hazards to human health and safety. Usually, the potential causes of the derailment are a collision with another object, the mechanical failure of tracks, such as broken rails, or the mechanical failure of the wheels. The analysis showed that broken rails or welds were the leading derailment cause on the main, yard, and siding tracks. Unlike sidetracks, accidents on the main railway tracks are mainly due to bearing failures, broken wheels, and human factors–related causes such as improper use of switches and violation of switching. In all speed ranges, broken rails or welds were the leading cause of derailments.

Causes of Derailment
Materials/ Component Failure

  •   Mechanical failure of braking system
  •   Imbalanced weight distribution
    • Improper loading/ cargo distribution
  •  Poor quality/ defective materials
  •  Rail defects at bolted joints
  •  Geometrical faults
  •  Track gauge increased
  •  Broken tracks

Human/ Communication

  •  Fatigue
  •  Bad driving
  •  Excessive speed
  •  Improper observance of signals
  •  Switching to wrong tracks
  •  Signal errors due to miscommunication

  Gear issues

  •  Faults in geometry
  •  Wheel breakage
  •  Axle box failure
  •  Fails to control engine wheel/ parts
    • Lack of lubrication


  •  Track geometry defects overlooked
  •  Train speed/axle loads/track improperly monitored

Weather adversity

  •   Heavy rain/ snowfall
  •   Earthquake/ landslide
  •   Tracks expand due to heat

Other issue

  •   Lack of maintenance/ inspection
  •   Collision with vehicle/ cattle/ wild animal

Root cause analysis helps to find the reasons for train derailments. The fishbone template helps to understand the causes and carry out an investigation on them. Let’s comprehend why this template is beneficial and how one can chalk out the strategies to bypass such major disasters by taking necessary action in advance.

Who should use the Causes of Derailment template?

  •  This fishbone template is helpful for anyone who wants to prevent train derailments and accidents.

Why use this template?

  •  Brisk understanding of the causes of a derailment.
  • Tailor this template using smartQED for your problem-solving.
  • Design your templates for different types of problems and incident analysis in smartQED.

Curated from community experience and public sources:

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