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Rail Safety is a National Priority

Rail Safety is a National Priority

Energy production is booming in the United States. The volume of crude oil moving by rail has quadrupled in less than a decade, and most of that movement occurs safely and without incident. Over the past decade, train accidents have declined by 43 percent and accidents involving a hazardous materials release are down 16 percent.

But at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, we know there is always more we can do.

That is why today we are asking for public input on how to enhance the safe transportation of hazmat by rail, including changes to the DOT 111 tank car.

Photo of tank cars at Bakken range

Recommendations in the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking include enhanced tank head and shell puncture resistance systems for 111 tank cars, as well as top fittings protection that exceed current requirements.

We are also laser focused on the energy boom epicenter-- the Bakken Shale Formation, a rock unit that covers approximately 200,000 square miles in Montana, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan, Canada. Oil production there has doubled in just the past three years, and right now countless workers are building pipeline facilities, hundreds of new trucks are on the road, and many new rail facilities are moving gas and hazardous liquids from the Bakken to locations throughout the country.

Photo of Cynthia Quarterman on-site at Bakken Shale Formation
PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman at the Bakken

PHMSA and FRA recently launched Operation Classification, also known as "The Bakken Blitz," an inspection operation to verify that crude oil is being properly classified in accordance with federal regulations. We’re primarily looking at shipments from the Bakken, and our activities include unannounced inspections, data collection, and sampling. These activities are taking place at strategic terminal and transloading locations that service crude oil.

Today, our railways move more hazardous materials than ever before. DOT will continue to enforce safety regulations--and revise them if necessary--to protect our communities and the environment.

Railroads are a national treasure; rail safety is a national priority, and we will keep our proud tradition of having the safest and most efficient railways in the world.

Cynthia Quarterman is Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

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To protect the public & our environment it is essential that we have strict classification & full disclosure of all hazardous materials being shipped. We must speed up improvements in rail car safety & accident response. If it can't be shipped safely, it shouldn't be shipped at all.

Developed with participation and input from all of the major rail industry stakeholders, the Rail Safety Regulators’ Panel and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Strategy has a 10-year horizon from 2010 to 2020. It is intentionally a high-level document. This allows individual rail industry organisations to easily align their own safety strategies/action plans with the national strategy, in particular with the seven National Priorities which stem from the Rail Safety Improvement Model described in the strategy.
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