Hoeven: Freight Railroads To Implement New Voluntary Operating Practices for Rail Transport of Crude Oil

Announcement Follows Hoeven Effort to Implement New Safety Measures

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, who has been working with federal regulators and railroad industry leaders, said today’s announcement that the nation’s major rail carriers will implement new voluntary operating practices for moving crude oil by rail is both a step in the right direction and a timely response to a serious concern.

The announcement follows several meetings Hoeven had with Department of Defense Secretary Foxx, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) head Cynthia Quarterman and top railroad officials to urge concrete action after last month’s rail accident in Casselton. The Association of American Railroads and Sec. Foxx made the announcement jointly.

Following the Casselton derailment, on January 9, Hoeven organized a delegation meeting with Foxx and Quarterman to discuss steps DOT should be taking to improve railway transportation safety. Concerns Hoeven raised at the meeting included:

  • Appropriate speed limits
  • Frequency and adequacy of track inspections
  • Shipping crude oil in the proper cars
  • Implementing next-generation communications technologies to avert collisions

At a follow-up meeting the following week with Sec. Foxx, regulators and railroad leaders, the group agreed to address these and other issues, such as routing, training, emergency response plans and other short-term measures that could be taken in the short-term to enhance rail safety.

Today, the industry and Sec. 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.

The announcement came one day after BNSF Railroad issued a request for bids to build 5,000 Next Generation Tank Cars.

“In light of recent rail accidents around the country, we urged regulators, shippers and railroads to take these commonsense steps in short order to make the transportation of crude oil by rail safer for employees, customers and, importantly, for the communities through which they travel,” Hoeven said. “This is a shared responsibility, and I commend both the industry and Secretary Foxx for responding to our concerns."

Hoeven also said that other issues relating to the safe transport of crude oil, such as tank car standards and proper shipper classification of crude oil, which are not included in the initiative announced today, must also be addressed in a timely way. More than a year ago, Hoeven wrote PHMSA Administrator Quarterman asking her to expedite rules governing construction of new, safer tanker cars.