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Railroad Industry Calls for Tighter Safety Standards on Rail Tank Cars

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Railroad Industry Calls for Tighter Safety Standards on Rail Tank Cars

In the wake of two major train derailments and explosions involving tank cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota, the nation's railroad trade groups are calling on federal safety regulators to require all tank cars used in the rail transport of flammable liquids to be either retrofitted to more stringent standards, or phased-out.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) says its proposal would affect about 78,000 of the 92,000 rail cars currently carrying flammable liquids around the country – but that the plan would “substantially decrease” the likelihood of accidents like the derailment and fire that took place in rural Alabama earlier this month – or the devastating explosion that killed at least 47 people in July, in a Quebec town near the province's border with Maine.

We believe it’s time for a thorough review of the U.S. tank car fleet that moves flammable liquids, particularly considering the recent increase in crude oil traffic,” AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger said in a press statement. “Our goal is to ensure that what we move, and how we move it, is done as safely as possible.”

The call for tighter safety standards comes as the amount of crude oil transported by rail continues to soar – from a reported 4,700 carloads in 2006 to an expected 400,000 this year.

Related: Industrial Accident At Tesla Plant, Not Fire, Injures Three

"We're moving a lot more flammable liquids than we have in the past," Hamberger toldThe Wall Street Journal. "Quebec did happen. As we move into this new environment, we'd better take a look and say, 'What more can we do?'"

One big issue, according to the Journal, is that most of the tank cars in question are owned by leasing companies and the businesses that produce oil, ethanal, chemcials and other flammable liquids. According to the newspaper Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) owns the third-largest tank car fleet in the country.

Meanwhile, the Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank car manufacturers, tells the WSJ it is still working on its response regarding the AAR's proposed safety retrofits. 

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