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To: All BNSF Customers

BNSF Announces New Risk Reduction Operating Policies

As we are all aware, the recent derailment in Lac Mègantic, Quebec has focused public attention on the safety of moving certain commodities by rail. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of Lac Mègantic as they recover from this tragedy. Railroads can carry dangerous cargoes and it is of the utmost importance for our customers, the communities through which we operate and our employees that we handle these shipments safely. While the accident investigation continues, we write to update you on the steps BNSF Railway is currently undertaking to ensure that all shipments on our railroad are handled as safely as possible. When the investigation is complete and we fully understand what specifically caused the tragedy, we will learn what we can from this event, as we always do, to drive even more safety improvements.

First and foremost, we want to emphasize that at BNSF, safety is paramount. BNSF believes that every accident and injury is preventable and our safety vision has long been focused on preventing accidents in the first place. The rest of the rail industry is also very safe, having reduced employee injury rates, train accident rates, and grade crossing collisions by 80 percent or more since 1980, and hazmat train accidents by 91 percent over the same period. According to the records of the rail industry's safety regulator, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), 2012 was the safest year in history for both BNSF and the rail industry.

BNSF has a broad-based, multi-level risk reduction program for all trains to reduce incident risk and ensure all commodities are handled safely and damage and incident-free. Some of the key elements are summarized below:

  • Record Capital Investments - Record capital investments are being made in the railroad to help create a safer and more reliable physical plant. BNSF has invested more than $41 billion since 2000, including a record $4.3 billion in 2013.
  • Employee Training and Compliance - BNSF's employees share our safety vision and are provided detailed technical and rules training coupled with a robust oversight process to ensure rules compliance.
  • Track Infrastructure Defect Inspections - BNSF inspects track and bridges more frequently than required by the FRA to help ensure they are safe. These inspections include routine visual inspections and the use of advanced technology to detect potential issues.
  • Equipment Defect Inspections - BNSF has an extensive network of detectors on our rail lines that monitor every railcar to prevent equipment failures before they occur.

At BNSF, our safety culture is one of constant and continuous improvement, and is a top priority at our railroad every day for every shipment.

On Friday, Aug. 2, the FRA issued an Emergency Order and Safety Advisory regarding the movements of flammable liquids, which include crude oil and ethanol. As a result, the rail industry will implement a number of additional measures to reduce risk and in some cases, provide an additional layer of review to reinforce existing safety rules. The measures are also consistent with the changes recently ordered in Canada. As we explain below, these changes were expected and largely correspond with voluntary actions underway by the rail industry.

As part of our commitment to safety, we have always handled some commodities with extra precautions to further reduce risk. For more than two decades BNSF and the rail industry have operated specially identified "Key Trains," which carry certain hazardous materials, with more restrictive operating procedures than required by federal regulation. Key Train operating procedures and practices are ingrained into BNSF's day-to-day operations, and include lower maximum speeds, along with stricter rules for trackside warning device notifications and emergency brake applications.

The FRA Emergency Order contained requirements that are effective within 30 days for unattended trains carrying hazardous material such as chlorine that is classified as Toxic by Inhalation (TIH) or 20 or more loads of certain flammable liquids like crude oil and ethanol.

These trains will not be left unattended on main line or siding tracks. The FRA will allow narrow exemptions for specific locations and circumstances if there is sufficient safety reason and a plan is submitted that requires the lead locomotive doors to be locked or the operating control handle (reverser) removed once the train is secured. Those responsible for securing the train must tell the dispatcher how many hand brakes have been applied and any other relevant information such as train tonnage, weather, and grade. This information will be recorded, verified, and confirmed with the train crew.

The FRA also issued a Safety Advisory that instructs the Rail Safety Advisory Committee, (whose membership includes railroads, shippers, labor, and car owners), to develop specific recommendations on a number of items including minimum train crew size and ensuring the right oversight processes and requirements are in place to identify and reduce risk, such as testing for compliance with the rules. The Safety Advisory also recommends a review of railroad and customer safety and security plans in addition to ensuring shipments of crude oil are properly classified for shipment.

We want to emphasize that BNSF considers these measures minimum standards and will always look at imposing operational safeguards that go beyond these. BNSF has a culture of compliance and commitment to safety. You can be sure that we will constantly implement operating and maintenance practice changes that will further reduce risk across the entire rail network. We commit to keep you informed of any additional developments in the weeks and months ahead. We believe that nothing is more important than operating safely in all of the communities in which we live and are fortunate to serve.


Steve Bobb
Executive Vice President and
Chief Marketing Officer

Greg Fox
Executive Vice President, Operations

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