On February 21, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced a rail safety initiative to institute new voluntary operating practices for moving crude oil by rail. This initiative relates to crude by rail operations and does not include tank car standards or proper shipper classification of crude oil, both of which are being handled separately. The voluntary practices agreed to by the railroads include:

  • Increased Track Inspections – Beginning March 25, 2014, the railroads will perform at least one additional internal-rail inspection per year above those required by new Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules on main line routes over which trains moving 20 or more carloads of crude oil travel. The railroads will also conduct at least two high-tech track geometry inspections each year on main line routes over which trains moving 20 or more car of crude oil are moving. Current federal regulations do not require high-tech track geometry inspections.
  • Braking Systems – No later than April 1, 2014, the railroads will equip all trains with 20 or more carloads of crude oil with either distributed power or two-way telemetry end-of-train devices. These technologies allow brakes to be applied from both ends of the train.
  • Use of Rail Traffic Routing Technology - No later than July 1, 2014, the railroads will begin to use the Rail Corridor Risk Management System (RCRMS) to help determine the safest and more secure rail routes for trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil.
  • Lower Speeds – No later than July 1, 2014, the railroads will operate trains with 20 or more tank cars carrying crude oil that include at least one older DOT-111 car no faster than 40 miles-per-hour in the federally designated 46 high-threat-urban areas as established by the Department of Homeland Security. “In the meantime, railroads will continue to operate trains with 20 or more carloads of hazardous materials, including crude oil, at the industry self-imposed speed limit of 50 miles per hour.”
  • Community Relations – The railroads will work with communities through which crude oil trains move to address local concerns.
  • Increased Trackside Safety Technology – No later than July 1, 2014, railroads will begin to install additional wayside wheel bearing detectors every 40 miles along tracks with trains carrying 20 or more crude oil cars.
  • Increased Emergency Response Training and Tuition Assistance – The railroads have committed to provide $5 million by July 1, 2014, to develop specialized crude by rail training and tuition assistant program for local first responders.
  • Emergency Responsive Capability Planning – By July 1, 2014, the railroads will develop “an inventory of emergency response resources for responding to the release of large amounts of crude oil along routes over which trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil operate. This inventory will include locations for the staging of emergency response equipment and, where appropriate, contacts for the notification of communities.

The railroads plan to work with the DOT and their rail customers to address other key shared responsibilities, including federal tank car standards and the proper classification and labeling of crude oil moving by rail.