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Train Accidents on the Rise

Trains transporting crude oil across the country are raising safety concerns.

Trains transporting crude oil across the country are raising safety concerns. The third quarter of 2014 proved a dubious one for the railway industry, including Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. Reports show that both personal injury and train accident rates rose, CSX Chief Operating Officer Oscar Munoz said in a recent conference call with investors. That figure is all the more disappointing considering last year’s near-record lows for injuries and accidents. But it’s not just CSX seeing troubling numbers.

Multiple high-profile train derailments across the country have thrust the issue of railway safety back into the media and regulatory spotlight. Among the most concerning are accidents involving trains transporting oil, known in the industry as oil-by-rail or crude-by-rail (CBR) trains. During 2013 and 2014, there have been at least 10 major CBR derailments in North America, including one in Quebec in July 2013 that exploded, killing 47 people and burning down a quarter of the town; another in Casselton, North Dakota last December that forced the evacuation of most of the town’s 2,300 resident; and a CSX train that exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia in late April that dumped three rail cars and spilling oil in to the St. James River, setting it ablaze. Safety advocates claim inadequate regulation on CBR trains, which can carry up to 100 tank cars, each containing as much as 30,000 gallons of crude oil.

They’re calling for increased regulation and restrictions on trains transporting oil to markets nationwide. Results of one recent study indicate significant need for higher standards for safe rail cars, more funding for prevention, preparedness and response programs and more transparency from oil companies. Of highest concern are CBR trains, including those owned and operated by CSX, that transport a particular type of crude oil harvested from North Dakota’s Bakken region to cities all across the country. Bakken oil extraction increased from 3.4 million gallons per day in 2003 to 37.8 million in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s a significant safety concern because Bakken oil is far more volatile and flammable than other types of crude oil, prompting safety advocates to dub Bakken-transporting CBRs “bomb trains.”

While the Department of Energy continues to study the issue and CSX and other railway companies promise increased focus on CBR safety, we here at Harrell and Harrell are keeping a close eye on the issue. Our experienced train and railroad accident attorneys specialize in helping drivers, pedestrians, passengers and railroad workers injured in train crashes, derailments and other incidents. If you or a family member suffer an injury either as a railway passenger or worker, contact us at 800-251-1111.