Jim Blaze: Commentary -- Making hazmat rail freight safer

Jim Blaze Headshot (2)

Beyond just slowing the trains down, it's a matter of making long recommended safety appliance investments.


After each major crude oil train or hazardous commodity freight train accident anywhere in Canada or the United States, there is a rush of safety-related outcries. And quite a bit of fear is expressed.

The poster child for rail freight safety might be hazardous materials, crude oil, and proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) commodities.

Yet to those who examine evidence, rail freight is unquestionably the safest mode to ship these materials. 

Making rail even safer comes down to a question of cost. What are possible cost-effective solutions beyond just slowing trains down?

Here is the bottom line.

Safety initiatives could become a much more discussed item at upcoming corporate and investor briefings. Where/how much should hazmat capital expenditures budgets be increased in order to support traffic growth and the public service role of railroads?

This safety improvement topic is best served before, rather than after, a random accident event. Use safety advancement to build improved public confidence for the industry’s possible role for business growth such as LNG and more autonomous train operating practices. 

Why?  Because my (our) railroad industry is far from zero-defect conditions today. “We” can be better. Can’t we?

Jim Blaze 2.14.20

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