Rail and Oil Industries Agree on Measures to Prevent Crude-by-Rail Explosions

U.S. DOT brokered a deal with energy and rail industries whereby both would take immediate steps to prevent the recent explosions involving the more volatile Bakken crude. While voluntary, actual regulations will take more than a year to approve.

2 minute read

January 20, 2014, 6:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


The meeting was convened by the U.S. Department of Transportation after a string of tank car explosions transporting oil from the Bakken formation throughout North America beginning last summer in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, followed by a Nov. 1 explosion in Aliceville, Ala.; Dec. 30 explosion in Casselton, N.D. and a Jan. 7 explosion in New Brunswick, Canada.

"The voluntary changes, which include improving the safety of tanker cars, were announced after a meeting...that included top agency officials [including Secretary Anthony Foxx], executives from the big freight railroads and members of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry's chief lobbying group," write Betsy Morris and Laura Stevens.

However, the meeting was not entirely copacetic. Union Pacific, the largest railroad in the nation, stated that the rail industry "had already been proactive in setting tougher standards for tank cars, and...were urging regulators to do the same."  

The oil industry went further, blaming the railroads for failing to prevent derailments, and blasting regulators for not imposing new safety rules. "The DOT needs to do more than just host meetings," charged an API spokesman.

Among the measures agreed to:

Rail industry steps:

  • Study rerouting trains around high-risk areas in the next 30 days.
  • Work on speed-reduction plans in riskiest areas.
  • Address where to place locomotives to help prevent derailments.

Petroleum industry steps:

  • Share information on the content of crude oil.

Both agreed to:

  • Find recommendations on changing tank-car standards within 30 days.

For regulators to issue those new tank car standards, "it would take the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the unit of DOT that regulates hazardous-material transport, more than a year to institute new safety rules for tank cars," write Morris and Stevens.

However, within a month of the July 6, Lac-Mégantic disaster in Quebec caused by an unmanned, runaway, oil-unit train that cause 47 fatalities and the devastation of the downtown, PHMSA issued an emergency rule to Prevent Unintended Hazardous Materials Train Movement.

Note: Access to The Wall Street Journal may require subscription. This International Business Times article mentions the Wall Street Journal report and is a good substitute - open access.

Friday, January 17, 2014 in The Wall Street Journal

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29, 2024 - Streetsblog LA

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Blue and white Pittsburgh bike share bikes lined up at a station with a red city bus on street in background.

Micromobility Operators Call for Better Links to Transit

For shared mobility to succeed, systems must tap into the connectivity and funding potential offered by closer collaboration with public transit.

March 4 - GovTech

New York MTA Bus

Retaining Transit Workers Is About More Than Wages

An analysis of California transit employees found a high rate of burnout among operators who face unpredictable work schedules, high housing costs, and occasional violence.

March 4 - Streetsblog California

View of Hollywood Reservoir with palm trees in foreground and Los Angeles neighobrhoods in background.

California's Stormwater Potential

A new study reveals that if California could collect and treat more stormwater in cities, it could provide enough water to supply a quarter of the state’s urban population.

March 4 - Cal Matters

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.