Like The Herald Business Journal on Facebook!
The Herald of Everett, Washington
Customer service  |  Subscribe   |   Log in or sign up   |   Advertising information   |   Contact us
Heraldnet.com

The top local business stories in your email

Contact Us:

Josh O'Connor
Publisher
Phone: 425-339-3007
joconnor@heraldnet.com

Maureen Bozlinski
General Sales Manager
Phone: 425-339-3445
Fax: 425-339-3049
mbozlinksi@heraldnet.com

Jim Davis
Editor
Phone: 425-339-3097
jdavis@heraldnet.com

Site address:
1800 41st Street, S-300,
Everett, WA 98203

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 930
Everett, WA 98206

HBJ RSS feeds

  • A BNSF Railway train hauls crude oil near Wolf Point, Mont., in standard tanker cars.

    Matthew Brown / Associated Press

    A BNSF Railway train hauls crude oil near Wolf Point, Mont., in standard tanker cars.

Safer oil-train tank cars planned

BNSF plans to buy 5,000 improved railroad cars to move oil and ethanol.

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Pinterest icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS
Associated Press
Published:
BILLINGS, Mont. — BNSF Railway Co. said Thursday it intends to buy a fleet of 5,000 strengthened tank cars to haul oil and ethanol in a move that would set a higher safety standard for a fleet that’s seen multiple major accidents.
The voluntary step by the Texas-based subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. comes as railroads in the U.S. and Canada are under intense pressure to improve safety for hazardous materials shipments.
There’s been a string of recent train accidents involving oil and ethanol, punctuated by a crude shipment that derailed in Quebec last July and killed 47 people.
A boom in domestic oil drilling and rising ethanol production spurred a dramatic increase in shipments of the materials by rail. Much of it is being hauled by an old fleet of some 78,000 tank cars that are prone to split during accidents.
Thursday’s announcement marks a potential major step in addressing that problem. However, it would not mean those older cars would go away, and there’s already a two-year backlog on new tank car construction.
In announcing that it will ask manufacturers to submit bids for the new cars, BNSF indicated it was unwilling to wait for the U.S. Department of Transportation to finalize pending regulations on improved tank cars.
The company said it hoped to accelerate the transition to a new generation of safer tank cars and give manufacturers a head start in designing them as federal officials consider changes to the current standards.
Typically, railroads don’t own the tank cars they pull, making BNSF’s proposal somewhat unusual. But whether it will spur other shipping companies or railroads to follow suit was uncertain, said Tom Simpson, president of the Railway Supply Institute, a trade association representing tank car manufacturers and owners.
“Everyone has the right to go to a tougher standard,” Simpson said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
BNSF spokeswoman Roxanne Butler said the request for bids on new cars reflects the company’s “commitment to crude-by-rail growth and improving the overall safety of crude transportation.”
In addition to the older tank cars that are prone to fail, there are about 14,000 cars being used that were built according to a more stringent standard established by the industry in 2011. BNSF’s proposal would go further still.
Among the added safety features being sought by the company are 1/2-inch thick steel shields that would go on either end of the tank cars to help prevent them from cracking open during accidents. The new cars also would have pressure-relief valves capable of withstanding an ethanol-based fire and a tank body made of thicker steel than existing cars.
Butler said she had no time frame on when the tank cars could be built and put into use.
Story tags » Hazardous MaterialsRailroad

MORE HBJ HEADLINES

CALENDAR

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus

Market roundup