Freight Railroads Commit to Actions to Ensure Crude Moves Safely

"We share the administration's vision for making a safe rail network even safer and have worked together to swiftly pinpoint new operating practices that enhance the safety of moving crude oil by rail," Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said.

The Association of American Railroads' chief announced Feb. 21 that its members are voluntarily initiating a rail operations safety initiative for crude oil shipped by rail. AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger announced this move, which follows consultations between member railroads and the U.S. Department of Transportation, including leaders of the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

"We share the administration's vision for making a safe rail network even safer and have worked together to swiftly pinpoint new operating practices that enhance the safety of moving crude oil by rail," he said. "Safety is a shared responsibility among all energy supply chain stakeholders. We will continue to work with our safety partners – including regulators, our employees, our customer,s and the communities through which we operate – to find even more ways to reinforce public confidence in the rail industry's ability to safely meet the increased demand to move crude oil."

The railroads will take these steps:

  • Increased track inspections: Effective March 25, railroads will perform at least one additional internal-rail inspection annually above those required by new FRA regulations on main line routes over which trains moving 20 or more carloads of crude oil travel, and they will conduct at least two high-tech track geometry inspections each year on main line routes over which trains with 20 or more loaded cars of crude oil are moving. Current federal regulations do not require comprehensive track geometry inspections, according to AAR.
  • Braking systems: No later than April 1, railroads will equip all trains with 20 or more carloads of crude oil with either distributed power or two-way telemetry end-of-train devices so their crews can apply emergency brakes from both ends of the train in order to stop it faster.
  • Use of rail traffic routing technology: No later than July 1, railroads will begin using the Rail Corridor Risk Management System to help them determine the safest, most secure rail routes for trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil. According to AAR, RCRMS is a sophisticated analytical tool, developed in coordination with the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, PHMSA, and FRA, that railroads already use in routing security-sensitive materials.
  • Speeds: No later than July 1, railroads will operate trains with 20 or more tank cars carrying crude oil that include at least one older DOT-111 car no faster than 40 mph in the federally designated 46 high-threat-urban areas, as established by DHS regulations. In the meantime, railroads will continue to operate trains with 20 or more carloads of hazardous materials, including crude oil, at the industry self-imposed speed limit of 50 mph.
  • Community relations: Railroads will continue to work with communities through which crude oil trains move to address location-specific concerns.
  • Trackside safety technology: No later than July 1, railroads will begin installing additional wayside wheel bearing detectors if they are not already in place every 40 miles along tracks with trains carrying 20 or more crude oil cars, as other safety factors allow.
  • Emergency response training: Railroads have committed by July 1 to provide $5 million to develop specialized crude by rail training and tuition assistance program for local first responders. Part of the curriculum will be field training, while comprehensive training will designed to be conducted at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. facility in Pueblo, Colo.
  • Emergency response capability planning: Railroads will by July 1 develop an inventory of emergency response resources for responding to the release of large amounts of crude oil along routes over which trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil operate. This inventory will include locations for staging emergency response equipment and, where appropriate, contacts for the notification of communities. The railroads will give DOT information on the deployment of the resources and make the information available upon request to appropriate emergency responders.
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