U.S. Regulator Meets Rail Executives on Oil-Tanker Safety

A meeting this week between U.S. regulators and companies involved in the oil-shipping supply chain is “a call to action” to strengthen safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

“We’ve got to work hard with industry to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure hazardous materials moving by rail or by highway is moving as safely as possible,” Foxx told reporters today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The meeting follows four derailments involving trains hauling crude in North America since July. The most recent was Dec. 30 in Casselton, North Dakota, when a BNSF Railway Co. train hauling crude from the Bakken formation derailed and caught fire.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, in a report on the accident today, said 18 of the 20 tank cars that derailed were punctured and that more than 400,000 gallons of crude were released. The board has for years called on regulators to require stronger tank cars to be used for hauling hazardous materials, which include crude oil.

“A concern of ours is the unit train, the amount of combustible materials,” NTSB member Earl Weener said today in an interview. “They’re basically rail pipelines. We’ve had that issue before with ethanol carriage as well.”

The board found that neither train involved in the North Dakota crash was speeding.

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