Thousands of Defects Found on Oil Train Routes
Government inspections of railroads that haul volatile crude oil across the United States have uncovered almost 24,000 safety defects, including problems similar to those blamed in derailments that triggered massive fires or oil spills in Oregon, Virginia, Montana, and elsewhere, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.
The safety defects were discovered during targeted federal inspections on almost 58,000 miles of oil train routes in 44 states. The inspection program began 2 years ago following a string of oil train accidents across North America, including a 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.
Federal regulators said the inspections resulted in 1,118 violation recommendations, prompting railroads to become more responsive to concerns raised by track inspectors and to improve safety.
Problems identified by federal inspectors included worn rails and other equipment; bolts meant to hold tracks in place that were broken, loosened, or missing; and cracks in steel bars joining sections of track. They also noted failures by railroads to quickly fix problems identified through inspections.
Such issues are not uncommon across the nation’s 140,000-mile freight rail network. But they’ve received heightened attention after rail shipments of crude oil increased and the number of major derailments spiked following a surge in domestic energy production.