WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Transportation and railway officials announced a joint initiative Friday aimed at improving the safety of delivering crude oil across the nation by train.
In a letter to Edward Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted there has been "significant growth" in the amount of crude oil being shipped by rail in recent years.
"The rapid increase in the production and transportation of crude oil requires additional vigilance for the continued safe movement of this commodity by all stakeholders involved, including both the rail industry and the federal government," Foxx said. "After all, nothing is more important for all involved than safety."
The nation's major freight railroads and Transportation Department agreement calls for railways in the coming months to follow industry route analysis requirements for trains with 20 or more oil tank cars, limit the speed of trains transporting crude oil to 40 mph in "any high-threat urban area," equip trains pulling oil tanker cars with "either distributed power locomotives or an operative two-way telemetry end of train device," conduct an additional rail inspection each year on main line routes and install defective bearing detectors at least every 40 miles along main routes.
The AAR and the railways will begin developing an inventory of emergency response resources along routes over which crude oil trains operate. They also will commit about $5 million to develop and provide hazardous material transportation training curriculum for first responders, and fund a portion of the cost of the training through the end of the year.
The railways also will work with communities through which the crude oil trains move to address concerns specific to those communities.
The association, in a statement on its website, said additional issues such as tank car standards and proper shipper classification of crude oil, are being addressed separately.
"We share the administration's vision for making a safe rail network even safer, and have worked together to swiftly pinpoint new operating practices that enhance the safety of moving crude oil by rail," Hamberger said. "Safety is a shared responsibility among all energy-supply-chain stakeholders. We will continue to work with our safety partners -- including regulators, our employees, our customers and the communities through which we operate -- to find even more ways to reinforce public confidence in the rail industry's ability to safely meet the increased demand to move crude oil."