WASHINGTON — The Department of Transportation outlined several steps Friday aimed at improving the safety of crude oil on trains after a series of derailments sparked concern from state and local officials.
Among other measures, trains carrying crude oil in older, less reinforced tank cars will slow to 40 mph through 46 major cities.
Railroads will also conduct more frequent inspections of tracks over which crude oil shipments move, improve those trains' braking capabilities and install new sensors along major routes to detect train defects.
The department also said it would work with railroads to determine the safest routing options for crude oil, examine emergency response capabilities and address the concerns of individual communities. The measures are voluntary and will be in place by July 1. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx laid out the steps in a letter to the Association of American Railroads, the industry's Washington advocacy group.
Edward Hamberger, the rail industry group's president and CEO, said in a statement that the industry would continue "to find even more ways to reinforce public confidence in the rail industry's ability to safely meet the increased demand to move crude oil."
Hamberger's group says the volume of crude oil moving by rail increased to 400,000 cars last year from fewer than 10,000 in 2008. Rail has captured the bulk of shipments from North Dakota's booming Bakken shale region. In July, 47 people were killed when a train loaded with Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. More recent derailments in Alabama, North Dakota and Pennsylvania resulted in intense fires, large spills or both.