New safety recommendations for railroad oil shipments

By: Jenn Schanz

Residents of Casselton, North Dakota were shocked in December after
a train carrying oil suddenly exploded on the track.

“This is the first time I've ever seen something like
this,” says an eyewitness.

But that's not the first train carrying flammable liquids
that ignited, it happened back in July in Canada too.

Now, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is speaking
out, and asking railroads to take more precautions when transporting crude oil.

“We've seen crude oil shipment by
rail increase by over 400 percent since 2005,” says Eric Weiss, a Public Affairs Officer at the NTSB. 

The NTSB wants railroads to expand their routes, to avoid heavily populated areas.

They also want audits to make sure railroads have emergency
response plans in place for worse case scenarios, and that they're properly
labeling hazardous materials.

But that's not all.

The NTSB says the railcar that generally carries crude
oil, the DOT-111, needs to be redesigned and built stronger, so that in the
event of a spill, the damage can be contained.

“When one of these cars are
punctured, it creates a pool fire underneath it and then basically cooks off
one car after another creating a domino effect,” says Weiss. 

Union Pacific, a main railroad that ships through Nebraska,
didn't comment on the new recommendations, but said in a statement,

“Union Pacific transports all commodities in accordance with all applicable federal
law and industry standards….federal mandate requires common carriers like Union Pacific to move hazardous materials, including crude oil…our primary
goal is to safely transport those hazardous materials.”