A huge fireball rose into the sky turning the North Dakota town of Casselton into what looked like a war zone. The culprit was a freight train carrying crude oil that collided with a train carrying grain that had derailed earlier. The collision sent fireballs shooting up more than 100 feet, and left the oil train in flames. The train cars burned through the night, and officials called on the 2,400 residents of nearby Casselton, N.D. to leave their homes as the winds shifted overnight, blowing black soot toward the town.
Don’t think this can happen in your town? If you live anywhere near a railroad it can. Shipments of oil by rail is booming. With the middle of the country brimming with crude oil the rail industry is now hauling more crude than at any time.
Which raises the question: Is all this safe? Let’s do a little Q & A and I’ll let you decide.
A. The North Dakota crash is the fourth serious accident involving trains hauling crude in North America this year.
Q. How many railroad tanker cars a year are filled with crude oil?
A. In 2013 there were over 400,000 railroad tankers crossing our country. That’s a huge increase from the previous year when there was only 234,000 railroad tanker cars carrying crude.
So we’ve established that there have been several serious railroad accidents in the past year. We also know that there is a huge increase in the volume of railroad cars that carry crude. As a Virginia (VA) railroad accident injury attorney I’d conclude that more serious injuries and accidents are on the horizon. This not only impacts the communities that these railroads travel through but also the many railroad workers that are manning these shipments.
While there may not be one magic bullet that will solve these potentially deadly accidents from happening a number of protocols have already been suggested and put into place. One would be that rail inspections are on the rise with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration increasing unannounced inspections and testing of trains. Another very promising safety measure which our firm has written extensively about is Positive Train Control. However railroad companies seem to be making every effort not to implement it.