There are many things that have happened as a result of the boom in domestic drilling in the United States. But if there is one thing that readers of our blog were most concerned about it was the increase in the amount of rail shipments by railroad companies. It was certainly something Texas-based BNSF Railways Co. concerned itself with recently, especially after a number of rail-car derailments raised questions about rail-car and worker safety.
According to reports, many shipments of crude oil and other hazardous materials are done so by some 78,000 tank cars that are prone to splitting when involved in a derailment and other accident. Past accidents, such as a particularly deadly one in Quebec last year, have proven that the danger is not just to people near the accident site but to railroad workers as well. As BNSF indicated recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been slow to finalize new regulations for improved tank cars, which is a risk BNSF says it is unwilling to take.
This month, the railroad announced that it intends on buying a fleet of 5,000 new tank cars and is already asking manufacturers to submit bids for the new cars while regulations are still being debated. BNSF hopes that its voluntary step towards increased safety will set an example for others in the industry and give manufacturers a head start on designing safer tanks as well.
Although BNSF's actions highlight the company's continuing effort to provide the safest working conditions for its employees, it will also be important for the company to follow government regulations when they become law. Failing to do so could result in serious OSHA violations down the road, which is something BNSF is already hoping to avoid with its move for safer rail cars.
Source: The Big Story, "BNSF plans to upgrade tanker fleet after accidents," Matthew Brown, AP, Feb. 20, 2014