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Recent train derailments, including one in a small Ohio town, have prompted officials to examine what is causing the accidents and whether they are happening more frequently.

Derailments rank as the most common type of accident involving major freight railroads, federal data shows. Equipment failures are increasingly responsible for derailments, and problems with equipment and train tracks accounted for nearly 60% of derailments nationwide last year.

To better understand train derailments, The Wall Street Journal analyzed data that railroads filed with both the Federal Railroad Administration and the Surface Transportation Board. When possible, the data reflects accidents and derailments on so-called main lines, encompassing incidents outside of rail yards and on tracks that pass through communities such as East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a Feb. 3 derailment involving Norfolk Southern Corp. NSC 0.32%increase; green up pointing triangle

The number of derailments among major freight railroads has fallen sharply since 2000, data shows. However, the rate of derailments for some railroads has increased in recent years as they haul more freight over fewer train miles.