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Crude By Rail Facts

transportation of crude oil by rail

Helping Deliver the Economy and U.S. Energy Independence

The United States is undergoing a transformative shift in its energy supply as crude oil production is sharply rising. U.S. crude oil production will increase by almost 60% from 2008 through 2014, up from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to a projected 8.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2014.

This growing energy product is helping strengthen the nation's economy, revitalize its manufacturing sector, create jobs and put the U.S. squarely on the path to energy independence. U.S. freight railroads, which play a critical role in helping achieve these public benefits, are uniquely qualified to quickly, efficiently and safely move crude oil from oil fields to refineries throughout the United States.

U.S. freight railroads work closely with federal, state and local officials, communities, first responders, customers and shippers to ensure the demands of the nation's growing domestic energy sector are safely achieved.

Energy Independence Chart

Steadfast Commitment to Improving Safety

Pursuing safe railroad operations is not an option for the nation's freight railroads, it is an imperative. Today, 99.998% of all hazardous materials moved every day reach their destination without a release caused by a train accident. This strong safety record, coupled with the industry's culture of safety, is among the many reasons the federal government requires railroads to transport hazardous materials. Railroads have improved the safety record of moving hazardous materials by more than 90% since 1980 due to the ongoing commitment to infrastructure investment, technology innovation, rigorous employee training, self-imposed operation practices and community safety initiatives.

Safeguarding Communities

Railroads play an integral role in the economic well-being of large and small towns throughout the U.S., delivering what businesses produce and goods Americans need - all with a dedication to do so safely. This focus on safety extends far beyond the railroads' 175,000 employees and its 140,000 mile rail network into the communities they serve. Freight railroads are resolute in their commitment to provide emergency planning assistance and training to local fire, police and emergency response personnel.

  • Each year thousands of emergency responders, along with railroad and shipper employees, receive specialized training through railroad-specific programs or through industry initiatives at the Transportation Technology Center's Security and Emergency Response Training Center and through TRANSCAER.
  • Railroads are actively involved in state emergency planning committees and conferences on emergency response.
  • Railroads provide appropriate local authorities with a list of the hazardous materials, including crude oil, transported through their communities.
  • Railroads use a sophisticated routing model, developed with the FRA, PHMSA, TSA and FEMA, to help determine the safest and most secure routes for transporting hazardous materials.
  • When an incident occurs, railroads swiftly implement well-practiced emergency response plans and work closely with first responders to help minimize injuries or damage.

Strengthening a Safe Rail Network

Freight railroads have rigorous employee safety training requirements and strict operating procedures that govern the handling and movement of hazardous goods, including crude oil. Federal regulations and self-imposed safety practices dictate locomotive and infrastructure inspections, rail car and track maintenance schedules, selection of safe and secure routes for moving hazardous materials and how to handle and secure trains carrying hazardous materials.

America's freight railroads have also invested record amounts of private capital - $550 million since 1980 - to maintain and upgrade the country's rail infrastructure and purchase state-of-the-art equipment. Such investments have improved rail's safety performance.

Advocating for Safer Tank Cars

Freight railroads have led the charge to ensure flammable liquids like crude oil and ethanol are moved in tank cars built to stringent design and constructions standards.

In 2011 the rail industry's Tank Car Committee, comprised of shippers, rail car manufacturers and railroads, voluntarily implemented standards that exceed those of the federal government. In November 2013, freight railroads stepped up the call for even more rigorous standards for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, including asking for retrofitting tank cars to meet the higher standards or phasing those that cannot be made safer.

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