Enhanced Shale Crude Train Operating Procedures
We believe it is important that we are transparent and communicate frequently with you regarding actions we take involving the rail transportation of crude. It is with this in mind that we want to make you aware of additional counter-measures we are implementing. Safety is always the highest priority at BNSF. Our safety program is broad-based, multi-layered, and focused on driving a continuous reduction of risk. The measures that we are applying align with our existing approach, which has already yielded best-ever safety results across all of our safety metrics.
We take our federal common carrier obligation very seriously, and always within the context of safety. Our approach to ensuring the safe movement of shale crude can be summarized as prevention, mitigation and response; it is a partnership with customers and communities on the BNSF network. We have a demonstrated record of moving all hazardous commodities safely with 99.99 percent of these shipments delivered without incident. We know that we have the primary role in prevention, and our goal is continuous improvement. In the event there is an incident, we learn what we can from it and take the appropriate actions to prevent future events.
As we are all aware, recent incidents involving the rail transportation of shale crude have continued to raise concerns among customers, railroads and the communities we serve on the ability of this particular commodity to be moved safely. We know this commodity can be moved safely. It requires the right tank cars and ongoing risk reduction. The additional steps we announce today are designed to assist in that by further reducing risk.
BNSF and the rail industry have already implemented extensive measures to reduce risk in the transportation of shale crude beginning with the addition of crude and ethanol to our Key Train network in 2013. Key Trains carry certain car counts of specific hazardous materials, such as chlorine, anhydrous ammonia, crude oil and ethanol, and are subject to more restrictive BNSF operating procedures than required by federal regulation. In addition, several other additional operating practice changes were implemented in August 2013, followed in February last year by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Association of American Railroads entering into a voluntary agreement on further operating practice changes as interim steps while the agency continued work on the crude transportation rulemaking.
The recent incidents involving crude, including our own on March 5 near Galena, IL, have further highlighted communities' concerns and led us to believe that we must take further action. While DOT-111 and unmodified CPC-1232 tank cars are still in use, it is clear to us that these additional measures need to be taken to prevent future incidents or mitigate the impacts of one. This underscores the urgency for moving to a safer tank car as quickly as possible, as well as reducing risk for existing tank cars while they remain in shale crude service.
Most importantly, we continue to believe that a next generation tank car or a CPC-1232 tank car that is appropriately retrofit is necessary to reduce the risk in the transportation of shale crude. As a result, we will move forward working with you, our customers, to transition DOT-111 cars from shale crude service on our railroad within one year, followed by transitioning unmodified CPC-1232 cars from shale crude service within three years. During this interim time period, the additional counter-measures we began to implement this week will be operative until our transition goal is achieved.
The additional operating practices are as follows: beginning Wednesday, March 25, BNSF is requiring that speeds be limited to 35 mph for all shale crude trains operated on our tracks through large municipal areas with populations over 100,000 people. Following implementation of the speed restriction, rail detection frequency will be increased near critical waterways, exceeding the 2014 voluntary DOT agreement. BNSF utilizes an extensive wayside detection network that provides health monitoring of our locomotives and cars. We will reduce the tolerance of removing cars from the train upon notification of a defect.
Finally, we know that increased train volumes, not just crude volumes--as well as the operating changes we are proposing, and those already implemented, have raised concerns that there could be community grade crossing impacts. As always, we will be mindful of that and continue working with our communities on a case-by-case basis with willingness to participate financially in projects that mitigate those impacts.
BNSF's local emergency responder training through the Transcaer program and the specialized crude training at the Transportation Technology Center (TTCI) in Pueblo, Colorado will continue as well. We trained over 8,500 first responders last year and hosted 714 at TTCI. We are continuously improving the interface between first responders and railroad in response planning and real-time information access to the products that we carry.
Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and the communities we serve; safe production is also an important part of how we meet our customers' expectations. We believe that these counter-measures will further reduce risk in the interim time period until the next generation tank car is available or unmodified CPC 1232 tank cars are appropriately retrofit.
BNSF keenly understands the importance to the U.S. economy and the benefits already being realized by the increase in domestic energy production and the prospect of North American energy independence cannot be over-stated. We take our role and responsibility in the domestic energy supply chain seriously, and we are committed to working with our customers through this transition and to ensure that we operate as safely as possible and free of incident.
As always, thank you for your business.
Executive Vice President and
Chief Marketing Officer
Executive Vice President and
Chief Operations Officer