By JIM SNYDER
US regulators, acting after a oil-train derailment last year
ignited a fireball that killed 47 people in Canada, said they
intend to require at least two crew members for crude
shipments, a proposal opposed by the railroads.
The Federal Railroad Administration also will establish
minimum crew size standard for most freight trains and
passenger rail lines, the agency said in a statement.
We are committed to taking the necessary steps to
assure the safety of those who work for railroads and
shippers, and the residents and communities along shipping
routes, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a
The agency is acting after a train that was operated by one
person was left unattended for the night in July and rolled
into the center of Lac-Megantic, triggering a fatal explosion
that destroyed half the town.
The Association of American Railroads, whose members include
Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF, said large railroads already run
oil trains with at least two crew members.
Nevertheless, Edward Hamberger, the groups CEO, said
the Federal Railroad Administration has never shared an
iota of data that shows or proves two-person crews are
If a regulation is proposed, then the least that can be
expected is that a federal agency should back it up with
grounded data that justifies the recommend rule,
Hamberger said in a statement.
FRA administrator Joseph Szabo said in the agencys
statement that two-person crews would improve the safe
transport of crude oil.
Crude-by-rail shipments have soared as oil drillers employ
new technologies to crack open and free oil and gas from
shale formations at a faster pace than pipelines can handle.
Canadian investigators found that the brakes on the Quebec
train werent applied with enough force. Canadian
regulators have since banned one-person train crews when
hauling hazardous material.
Whether a railroad is carrying crude oil through towns
across America, or people taking a well-earned vacation or
commuting to work, we need to make sure people are safe,
whether on the train and near the tracks, said Senator
Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat.
Murray is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations
transportation subcommittee, which is holding a hearing on
Previously, the Transportation Department ordered energy
companies using rail to ship oil to test the chemical
composition of all crude before loading it on tank cars. It
is also studying whether rail cars carrying crude need to be
made more robust to lower the risks a derailment will cause
Foxx told the subcommittee the oil industry has provided a
minimal amount of data on the characteristics of oil from
North Dakotas Bakken shale region, which is slowing
down efforts to improve the safety of transporting the fuel.
Bakken crude may be more volatile than other types of oil.