NTSB hosts safety forum on flammable shipments by rail

Washington – The National Transportation Safety Board hosted a forum on rail safety April 22-23 in response to a series of train derailments in 2013 that resulted in spills of flammable shipments – some leading to fatalities.

Forum panelists included academics, tank car manufacturers, rail carriers, and representatives from emergency response and federal regulatory agencies. The top concerns discussed were:

  • Vulnerabilities in rail tank cars used to transport volatile crude oil from the Bakken Formation
  • Funding for training emergency responders on incidents involving flammable train shipments
  • How train routes can be selected to help avoid flammable shipments going through safety-sensitive, highly populated areas
  • Risk mitigation among rail operations to minimize the potential for derailments and spills of flammable shipments
  • The role of behavioral factors and operational procedures, such as minimum train crew size requirements

The panelists generally agreed that rail tank car standards must be improved and that regulators and industry must collaborate to improve the safety of hazardous materials transportation by rail.