Crude by Rail

We understand that the risks associated with crude-by-rail are a very real concern. We take our responsibility to ship crude oil, as mandated by federal law, very seriously. We follow the strictest safety practices and in many cases, exceed federal safety regulations. Our goal is to have zero derailments and we work tirelessly with the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and our customers to ensure we operate the safest railroad possible.

How Union Pacific works to prevent and mitigate incidents

Union Pacific works diligently to prevent derailments or other accidents. We spent more than $21.6 billion in capital investments from 2007-2013 continuing to strengthen our infrastructure. By doing so, we improve safety for our employees, our communities and our customers.

We have decreased derailments 23% over the last 10 years, due in large part to our robust derailment prevention and risk reduction process. This process includes, among others, the following measures:

  • Union Pacific uses lasers and ultrasound to identify rail imperfections.
  • We forecast potential failures before they happen by tracking the acoustic vibration on wheels.
  • We perform a real-time analysis of every rail car moving on our system each time it passes a trackside sensor, equaling 20 million car evaluations per day.
  • Employees participate in rigorous safety training programs on a regular basis and are trained to identify and prevent potential derailments.

Union Pacific conducts comprehensive, ongoing employee safety training and has also invested in eight fire fighting trailers with fire-fighting foam. We are building a reserve of foam for deployment as needed.

Union Pacific reaches out to fire departments as well as other emergency responders along our lines to offer comprehensive training to hazmat first-responders in communities where we operate. Union Pacific annually trains approximately 2,500 local, state and federal first-responders on ways to minimize the impact of a derailment in their communities. Union Pacific has trained nearly 38,000 public responders and almost 7,500 private responders (shippers & contractors) since 2003. This includes classroom and hands-on training.

Working together to improve safety: The Railroad Industry, AAR, PHMSA and API

The AAR proactively established upgraded standards for tank cars that today exceed federal requirements.

PHMSA is currently studying Bakken crude oil properties. Crude oil is a generic term to describe naturally occurring hydrocarbons. The crude oil differs by extraction point, and varies across and within regions. While the majority of the crude oil shipped by rail comes from the Bakken region, Union Pacific handles all crude oil with the same level of care.

Leaders at Union Pacific are working closely with the AAR, PHMSA, our customers and others in our industry, like the American Petroleum Institute (API), to improve the safety of crude-by-rail transport. We are carefully evaluating the process by which we determine freight routes and are looking at following the same route protocols we follow when we transport hazardous materials such as ammonia or chlorine.