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To: BNSF Industrial Products Customers

BNSF announces two key rail safety initiatives affecting crude oil by rail

Dear Customer,

BNSF Railway believes keeping our customers informed about major business developments is important to our relationship and our drive to consistently meet your expectations. Last week, BNSF announced two key rail safety initiatives affecting crude oil by rail.


As we understand more about the levels of gases and vapors contained in crude, it is apparent there are two potential paths forward for moving this commodity more safely. Either the gases and vapors must be reduced to an acceptable level prior to transport, or we must ensure the strength of the tank car is appropriate for the commodity. For example, a pressurized car is necessary for commodities like propane. It is with reducing that risk in mind, on Feb. 20, 2014, BNSF requested major railcar manufacturers give us proposals to construct 5,000 next generation tank cars designed to transport flammable liquids, specifically crude oil and ethanol. This action represents the significant commitment the company has to crude oil business and to improving the overall safety of transporting crude by rail. We also hope that BNSF’s request will kick start the industry’s transition to newer and safer cars.

While the rail industry voluntarily adopted the stronger current industry tank car standards in Oct. 2011, these next generation tank cars will exceed those safety standards by requiring these changes:

  • 9/16-inch-thick steel car body shell and head ends
  • 11-gauge steel jackets and full-height 1/2-inch-thick head shields
  • Thermal protection system with ceramic thermal blanketing and a pressure-relief device, appropriately sized
  • Bottom outlet valve handle, which disengages to prevent unintentional opening


In addition to BNSF’s efforts to strengthen the tank car safety standards of transporting crude by rail, on Feb. 21, 2014, the nation’s freight railroads, working with the United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, voluntarily agreed to a series of operational counter-measures that will further reduce risk in the movement of crude by rail. The railroad industry’s voluntary agreement addresses key areas:
  1. Rerouting analysis for crude trains
  2. Lowering crude oil train speeds in large cities designated as High Threat Urban Areas
  3. Formalizing enhanced braking processes
  4. Increased track inspections on crude routes
  5. Additional wayside equipment defect detectors on crude routes
  6. Local emergency responder training and tuition assistance
  7. Railroad emergency response systems
  8. Community outreach

BNSF is a strong supporter of these new voluntary commitments to further reduce risk in the movements of crude oil by rail. We believe the rail industry plays a critical role in helping the United States and North American economies achieve energy independence and this new voluntary initiative will help ensure that our operations continue to grow with even greater safety.

BNSF’s continued leadership efforts within the railroad industry on continually improving safety initiatives are driven by our commitment to consistently meeting our customers’ expectations and the safety of our employees and communities where we operate. As we move forward on the request for proposals for next generation tank cars and the new crude oil by rail voluntary industry safety initiatives, we will keep you informed.


David Garin
Group Vice President, Industrial Products
BNSF Railway

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