NTSB addresses safety concerns of trains carrying hazardous materials

According to USA Today, outgoing chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Deborah Hersman, stated that when hazardous materials such as ethanol or crude oil are shipped via train, the public’s safety is at risk. Hersman initiated a two-day NTSB hearing that concluded on April 23 to look into the matter.

The hearing looked into train car designs, emergency response plans in the event of ethanol and/or oil release, plus what fuel shippers are doing to ensure that their travels are safer. Apparently, the rate at which hazardous materials shipped by rail reach their destination safely is 99.997 percent. Despite this near-perfect success rate, an NTSB board member mentioned that in the event of a derailment, the cars should be constructed to where chemicals are contained and not spilled into the environment.

Several high-profile derailments in 2013 prompted the investigation; two in particular include the July train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that resulted in 47 fatalities and the December derailment of a mile-long train in eastern North Dakota that led to the evacuation of 2,400 local residents.

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