Norfolk Southern’s ability to safely transport freight is essential to our business success. That is particularly the case regarding movement of products regulated by federal law as hazardous materials.
Working Hard to Move Freight Safely and Securely
As a common carrier, we, like other Class I railroads, are required by federal law to offer to transport hazardous materials. These goods – such as crude oil, ethanol, and fertilizers – are essential to consumers and the U.S. economy, but they can be harmful if mishandled. Rail is a safe way to transport these goods. According to the Association of American Railroads, 99.9977 percent of all hazardous material rail shipments reach their destination without a release caused by a train accident.
Norfolk Southern adheres to comprehensive federal regulations covering the movement of hazardous materials. The railroad also has adopted many voluntary safeguards to ensure the safety of employees and the communities we serve.
The company’s goal is to transport all shipments of hazardous materials without incident or release.
Releases of Hazardous Materials in 2013
Over the past three years, carload volumes of hazardous materials moved by Norfolk Southern have increased steadily. At the same time, the number of incidents involving the release of material during transport has decreased.
During 2013, Norfolk Southern transported 531,582 carloads of freight regulated as hazardous materials, up from 443,779 loads in 2012. We reported three accidental releases involving six tank cars. All releases involved relatively small amounts.
Two of the accidental releases occurred in May 2013. One, at Lemoyne, Ala., involved five gallons of acetone from one tank car. The other, at Box Springs, Ga., involved one tank car and the release of 35 pounds of a specialty chemical used for such things as synthetic resins and pesticides. The third incident occurred in December 2013, involving the release of 40,000 gallons of asphalt from four railcars that derailed at Vivian, W.Va.
In all cases, Norfolk Southern environmental management employees worked with appropriate regulatory authorities to ensure the spill sites were secured, cleaned, and remediated.
During 2013, Norfolk Southern reported non-accident releases of hazardous materials involving 63 railcars. That’s the lowest number of non-accident releases over the past eight years. As defined by the rail industry, a non-accident release, or NAR, is the unintentional release of a hazardous material while in transportation – including loading and unloading while in railroad possession – that is not caused by a derailment, collision, or other rail-related accident. The majority of NARs involve small quantities.
NS reportable hazardous material incidents
NS carloads of hazardous materials transported
Partnering with Customers to Safely Move Freight
To recognize the safe business practices of customers who ship hazardous materials on our railroad, Norfolk Southern 18 years ago established the Thoroughbred Chemical Safety Award. For 2013, we recognized 60 customers who shipped at least 1,000 carloads of hazardous product across our network without a single incident. Norfolk Southern works closely with chemical customers to ensure their product arrives safely to its destination, including offering training in safe rail-shipping practices.
“We commend these valued business partners for their absolute commitment to safety,” CEO Wick Moorman said. “Their efforts might not make news headlines, but the safe movement of chemicals that are the building blocks to jobs and a strong economy is the good-news story that occurs every day across our rail network. We thank these customers for helping us demonstrate that rail is the safest, most efficient, and environmentally friendly way to transport consumer goods.”
A Trained Workforce is Essential
More than 300 employees – known as “NS Sentinels” – have been specially trained and certified through the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response program developed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. NS Sentinels are based in areas that serve as key routes for the transport of hazardous materials. Employees trained in hazardous materials, environmental operations, and industrial hygiene are available to respond 24/7, if needed.
All employees who directly affect hazardous material safety – including train and engine crews who operate trains moving hazardous products – receive annual training in awareness, safety, and security. This schedule exceeds federal regulations, which require such training every three years.
Working with the National Transit Institute at Rutgers University, Norfolk Southern helped develop national training standards for safely transporting hazardous materials. We also have partnered with the federal Transportation Security Administration to develop other industry training programs.
To help communities stay safe, in 2013 we:
- Held 256 rail-accident response classes
- Trained more than 4,880 local emergency responders
- Offered more than 18,720 hours of training
Helping to Train Responders
Norfolk Southern employees help train local police, firefighters, and other first responders in how to safely respond to rail incidents involving hazardous materials.
To safeguard communities, we participate in the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response program known as TRANSCAER®. In 2013, Norfolk Southern employees through TRANSCAER conducted 256 rail-accident-response training classes in 110 locations in 17 states across our network. More than 4,880 emergency responders participated in classroom and hands-on training, tabletop simulations, and field drills. The locations chosen were based on Norfolk Southern’s hazardous material key routes and requests from hazardous material shippers and local emergency responders.
Representing 18,726 hours of training, these sessions provided a unique opportunity for local responders. With the help of industry partners DuPont, PCS, BASF, and GATX, the training often featured tank cars that transport hazardous materials, giving responders a hands-on opportunity to learn about their safety features.
“The TRANSCAER program is immensely important to Norfolk Southern,” said Richard Russell, our system director of environmental protection. “In the unlikely event of an incident, this proactive training ensures that shared knowledge, mutual areas of expertise, and a wealth of resources can be leveraged to protect the communities we serve.”
Award for community safety
Norfolk Southern earned the 2013 National Achievement Award from TRANSCAER. The award recognizes companies for exceptional efforts to ensure that first responders are trained in how to safely respond to a possible rail incident involving hazardous materials.
Norfolk Southern has earned this achievement for 12 consecutive years and 14 times overall. TRANSCAER is a voluntary national outreach program that helps communities prepare for and respond to possible hazardous-material transportation incidents. Norfolk Southern is an industry member of the program, joining other transportation companies as well as members from chemical manufacturing, distribution, and emergency-response businesses and organizations.
Funds for training
In 2013, the Norfolk Southern Foundation contributed more than $249,700 to 80 communities and emergency response organizations to assist in purchasing hazardous-material response equipment and safety gear. In addition, scholarships valued at $16,400 were provided to send emergency responders on our system to the Transportation Technology Center Inc.’s Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colo. The TTCI is a subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.
An NS emergency guide
To assist local emergency responders, Norfolk Southern produces a Railroad Emergency Response Planning Guide, a reference source that supplements our TRANSCAER training programs. The guide includes railroad phone numbers, important notification procedures, hazmat identification information, and other training opportunities.
Partnering with Government Agencies
Norfolk Southern maintains close working relationships with numerous federal and state agencies to ensure rail security.
Under the auspices of the Association of American Railroads, a Norfolk Southern police special-agent-in-charge serves on the National Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington and acts as liaison between the rail industry and rail-oriented departments of federal agencies. This arrangement improves the flow of security information among industry, law enforcement, and senior federal government officials.
In addition, we work with the U.S. Coast Guard to develop security plans at the six port facilities we manage on the East Coast, the Great Lakes, and the Ohio River. Norfolk Southern employees who work at security-controlled ports hold the Transportation Security Administration’s Transportation Worker Identification Credentials. We also are a member of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program, assisting U.S. Customs officials in protecting the integrity of rail freight shipments.
Moving Crude Oil Safely
Technology advances in drilling and recovering crude oil deposits have led to increased U.S. oil production, which contributes to the nation’s energy security, jobs, and competitiveness. A rise in oil production has created new business opportunities for Norfolk Southern and the rail industry.
In 2013, Norfolk Southern safely moved approximately 75,000 carloads of crude oil across our network. Working with western interline rail partners, we move crude over high-capacity routes from Chicago to refineries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. Our network offers customers the shortest, most direct route from western oil deposits to East Coast refineries. In addition, we move crude oil recovered from drilling sites in Canada.
Norfolk Southern has invested in track infrastructure improvements and technology to ensure that crude moves safely across key transport routes. For example, we closely monitor crude oil trains through a computer software tracking system. Wayside wheel bearing detector devices are installed along the routes to detect potential railcar defects that could trigger an incident. We also conduct frequent track inspections to ensure that rail is maintained for safe operations. In addition, we have strict operating procedures in place for train crews, including speed restrictions and protocols for ensuring train security during transit.
In February 2014, Norfolk Southern and the nation’s other major freight railroads agreed to participate in a voluntary initiative with the U.S. Department of Transportation to further enhance the safety of transporting crude by rail.
Among other things, the railroads agreed to:
- Perform additional track inspections, including at least two high-tech track geometry inspections on main line routes used to transport crude oil
- Equip crude oil trains of 20 or more tank cars with technologies that enable train crews to apply emergency brakes from both ends of a train to stop it faster
- Use the Rail Corridor Risk Management System, an analytical tool developed with the federal government, to help identify the safest and most secure rail routes for moving crude
- Operate certain crude oil trains no faster than 40 mph within 46 federally designated high-threat urban areas
- Install additional wayside wheel bearing detectors, as needed, to have one detector at least every 40 miles along key rail routes
- Develop an inventory of emergency response resources for responding to the release of large amounts of crude oil along key routes of transport
- Continue to work with local communities to address their concerns regarding the safe transport of crude oil trains
- Continue to work with industry and customer groups to encourage the enhancement of federal tank car safety standards