BNSF Customer Notifications – Customer Letters: Shale Crude Transportation Update on tank car safety

May 19th Progressive Railroading has provided direct access to BNSF revised decision on its previous year announced tank car acquisitions.

There are important leadership points in this announced BNSF revised business strategy.

Included are important facts on their provision of better emergency responder train movement information in the months ahead.

Their letter addresses a number of issues regarding the transportation of crude by rail.

See complete BNSF letter. Some excerpts follow.


“BNSF says that it continue to refine its operational counter-measures that we notified you of on March 30. Specifically, these are reduced speed in municipal areas with populations of over 100,000 people, increased inspection frequencies near critical waterways and higher thresholds for removing a car from service when it is flagged by our detector network.”

“As such, we already exceed the Federal Railroad Administration’s April 17 Emergency Order on speed reductions and actions were already underway on a substantial portion of the Safety Advisories released as well.”

“We make extensive use of our inspection and detection detector network and are vigilant in making use of the data readings on Key Train routes and taking action if necessary.”

“Our performance indicates that our efforts are working. BNSF had its best-ever year in reducing the frequency of derailments in 2014”

“Yet, as we saw last week in the incident in Heimdal, North Dakota, one accident is too many and we must continue to learn what we can to further reduce risk.”


“Last year, we thought we had a role to play in helping the industry move to a more appropriate tank car and providing certainty to the marketplace in the future of rail crude transportation.”

“We stepped forward with a request for proposal on 5,000 next generation tank cars.”

Apparently some of BNSF customers, indicated thst they “had concerns and BNSF owning or leasing tank cars was not viewed as useful.”

“We have listened closely to your concerns and as a result have decided to not proceed with the investment in equipment.”

“Despite a change in our plans, we believe our planned build advanced the dialogue and design for a next generation tank car.”

With the release of the federal regulatory tank car standard in the DOT rule…

“BNSF intends to work with our customers to transition the next generation or appropriately retrofit tank cars into shale crude service as soon as is practicable.”

“We continue to believe that DOT-111 tank cars should be removed from BNSF shale crude service in one year.”

“Also, we believe that unmodified CPC-1232 tank cars should be removed from BNSF shale crude service in three years”

“We do have concerns that additional provisions of the DOT rule will remove capacity from our network, particularly the electronically controlled pneumatic brakes mandate.” …

“While the industry continues to work through these issues, we advise customers who plan to acquire tank cars to have the cars fit with the structural elements for a dual-braking system to be added at a later date.”

Accident Response

“In the unfortunate case of an incident, we remain committed to not only having our own robust capacity to respond quickly and effectively, but also ensuring that emergency responders in the communities we serve have effective training and response capability as well.”

“This year, we will continue the Transcaer training program across our Key Train network and will financially sponsor 500 first responders for specialized crude response training at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado.”


“We have also listened to the concerns of local officials and emergency personnel across our network in being able to access the location and contents of any given train in their area.” “To provide that information to those who may need it to respond, BNSF is rolling out a near real-time GIS-based tracking application (SECURETRAK) to allow our public partners to access the information they need, when they need it.”

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