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Tom Albanese, Published January 26 2014

Letter: Focus on rail safety, tank car standards priorities for BNSF

I would like to address issues raised in the Jan. 20 Forum editorial regarding rail safety and regulation.

It is not in the interest of BNSF, our employees or the communities we serve to have an accident. BNSF believes that every accident and injury is preventable and our safety vision has long been focused on preventing accidents in the first place. Our vision is achieved through a broad risk reduction process that is focused on record capital investments, employee training and oversight, and track and equipment inspection and defect detection that exceeds federal requirements. We have invested over $500 million in maintaining and expanding our infrastructure in North Dakota since 2009. Every train is inspected prior to beginning its journey.

There has also been speculation on four derailments over the past nine years within a 9-mile stretch. These derailments do not have a systemic underlying cause. Each had a separate and unique cause which is public information. Track in the Casselton, N.D., area is inspected four times a week, with no more than two days between inspections, exceeding the frequency required by the Federal Railroad Administration.

BNSF and the rail industry have also led the way on new tank car standards. Due to the increase in crude and ethanol shipments, the railroads, car owners and manufacturers voluntarily set a new industry standard in October 2011. Every car manufactured since then meets the newer standard. The rail industry subsequently petitioned the federal agency responsible for setting regulatory tank car standards in 2011 to accept the industry standard. The railroads have filed comments in that rulemaking seeking further enhancements to the 2011 car based on what we’ve learned in the intervening years to ensure the right equipment is used for each commodity.

Regulations on railroad safety and tank car standards already exist and help in setting a standard and play a coordinating role to ensure conformity and compliance across the industry. Regardless of the regulatory environment, BNSF will do the right thing in ensuring we move commodities safely across North Dakota and our network.


Albanese is general manager, Twin Cities Division, BNSF Railway.