The Herald’s Dec. 13 editorial (“Don’t reverse rule on oil train brakes”) on a decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to rescind a mandate for railroads to install electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes ignores railroads’ impressive safety record.
The sector set records for accident and derailment rates in 2016, making it the safest year ever for rail. Federal data shows that 99.998 percent of all crude shipments by rail reach their destination safely. A mere 0.26 percent of all derailments involve crude oil.
Railroads have led the pack in requiring safer tank cars and continue to provide preparedness training to emergency responders and employees. The industry also shares critical information with stakeholders, including through an app called AskRail, which allows first responders to instantly access information on the contents of trains moving through their communities.
Underlying this are massive private investments — $26 billion annually in recent years — including in a host of innovative technologies. To rigidly concentrate on ECP brakes as a magic bullet, when testing proves them unreliable, is misleading. None other than the National Academies of Sciences opined that the safety case for ECP brakes has not been made. This key fact should guide future editorials for accuracy.
Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO
Association of American Railroads