Hoeven: BNSF CEO Carl Ice Updates Senator on Efforts to Enhance Rail Safety, Catch up on Agriculture Backlogs

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today met with BNSF Railway CEO Carl Ice to follow up on a range of concerns the senator expressed to railroad officials over the past year. Hoeven urged the new company CEO to follow through on previous commitments and to work with shippers, regulators and other stakeholders to advance comprehensive rail safety reforms. That includes steps to prevent rail accidents, mitigate the risk of explosions and fires and have a robust response procedure in place when accidents do occur.

“North Dakotans and I are rightly concerned about not only the safety of our communities, but also the reliability of rail transportation to carry people and goods in our rapidly growing economy,” Hoeven said. “I again made the point that the company must work with producers and shippers to do all they can to keep our communities safe, our Amtrak trains running on schedule and our agricultural products moving to market.”

“We recognize the severe impact that our reduced network velocity is having on our customers and their business,” Ice said. “As we expressed in our February meeting, BNSF is committed to restoring service levels in North Dakota as quickly as possible. We will continue to provide regular updates on our progress to Senator Hoeven, as we have done today.”

Following the Casselton derailment, in January, Hoeven organized two delegation meetings with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) head Cynthia Quarterman and a group of industry leaders to develop strategies to prevent derailments and to reduce the risk of fire or explosions should a derailment occur. During the first meeting, Hoeven invited Foxx to visit North Dakota to further address the issue of rail safety by speaking directly with the people of Casselton and the state, a visit that Foxx has committed to make in the near future.

In February, the Association of American Railroads and Secretary Foxx announced that the industry will implement a host of new measures to enhance safety, including: increased track inspections, reduced speeds, improved braking systems and technology to better determine the safest and most secure rail routes for trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil. Hoeven also secured a commitment from BNSF to make unprecedented $5 billion investments in rail infrastructure, including $400 million in North Dakota and $600 million in the railroad’s northern tier.

Hoeven last month also brought together BNSF Executive Director Matt Rose and senior officials of American Crystal Sugar and Farmers Union to help resolve shipping delays for agriculture products and sugar that have occurred this winter. North Dakota producers told the senator that growers aren’t getting timely service from the railroads serving the state to ship their products. Hoeven today asked for an update on the company’s progress.

Ice indicated that commodity shipments are behind 19 days, about the same as system-wide, and that shippers should expect to see declines in past-due cars throughout April and May, and the railroad should be current in June.