U.S. crude oil production has risen sharply in recent years, with much of the increased output moving by rail.
In 2008, U.S. Class I railroads originated 9,500 carloads of crude oil. In 2013, they originated 407,761 carloads. In the first half of 2014, it was 229,798 carloads.
In light of these increased volumes, railroads have taken numerous steps to enhance crude oil safety.
They’ve undertaken top-to-bottom reviews of their operations and voluntarily updated their operating practices, from the selection of routes, to train speeds, to track and equipment inspections.
Railroads already provide training to more than 20,000 emergency responders each year, but they are increasing their efforts to train first responders and have created an inventory of emergency response resources along their lines.
In addition to reviewing their own operations to make them safer, railroads are urging federal regulators to toughen existing standards for new tank cars and require that existing tank cars used to transport crude oil be retrofitted with safety-enhancing technologies or, if not upgraded, aggressively phased out.
Additional pipelines will probably be built in the years ahead, but the competitive advantages railroads offer will keep them in the crude oil transportation market long into the future.