The safe transport of customers’ freight is essential to Norfolk Southern’s long-term business success. The company’s strategy is threefold: prevention, mitigation, and emergency response. The railroad carries out this mission through investments in rail infrastructure improvements and technologies; extensive employee training; partnering with all levels of government; training local first responders; and carefully coordinating the shipment of product with customers.
In 2014, Norfolk Southern safely delivered 99.9999915 percent of carloads carrying hazardous material to destination without accident. The .0000085 percent involved five cars that released product during two separate derailment accidents. Overall, the railroad moved 589,564 carloads of product classified by federal regulations as hazardous.
Employee Training in Hazmat
All employees who directly affect the safety of hazardous material transport receive security awareness training that is integrated into recurring hazardous material training and recertification programs. Employees who have specific security responsibilities receive more in-depth security training.
The railroad complies with and often exceeds federal training requirements for hazmat transport. For example, Norfolk Southern provides annual training in awareness, safety, and security for train and engine crews that transport hazardous materials, going beyond federal rules that require such training every three years.
As a common carrier, Norfolk Southern, like other large U.S. railroads, is required by federal law to offer to transport hazardous materials. These materials — such as crude oil, ethanol, fertilizers, and various chemicals — are used to manufacture consumer and commercial products that contribute to quality of life, health, and the U.S. economy. While essential, they can be harmful if mishandled.
In 2014, Norfolk Southern moved 589,564 carloads of product regulated as hazardous, about 8 percent of the year’s overall traffic volume. To ensure safe transport, the company adheres to comprehensive federal regulations covering transport of hazardous materials and has adopted many voluntary safeguards that exceed government rules.
During the year, 73 cars loaded with hazardous material released small amounts of product as the result of non-accident releases. As defined by the industry, a non-accident release, or NAR, is the unintentional release of hazmat while in transportation — including loading and unloading while in railroad possession — that is not caused by a derailment, collision, or other rail-related accident. Most of the NAR releases involve things such as loose tank car gaskets, valves, and caps. Tank cars used in revenue service to move hazmat on Norfolk Southern are owned by customers, who are responsible for maintaining them.
Two hazmat incidents in 2014, both occurring in February, involved train derailments. In Vandergrift, Pa., about 4,550 gallons of Canadian heavy crude oil spilled from four tank cars. In Jacksonville, Fla., about 25 gallons of ethanol leaked from one tank car. No injuries, fire, or explosions were reported in either incident. In both cases, Norfolk Southern environmental management employees worked with regulatory authorities to ensure the spill sites were secured, cleaned, and remediated.
Norfolk Southern works hard to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail. A key part of that effort is voluntary participation in the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response program, known as TRANSCAER®.
At TRANSCAER-related events in 2014, Norfolk Southern employees provided training for more than 5,440 emergency responders in 17 states to help communities across our network prepare for and safely respond to potential incidents involving rail transport of hazardous materials. Local first responders and government officials participated in classroom and hands-on training, table top simulations, and full-scale drills.
TRANSCAER Achievement Award
For the 15th time and 13th consecutive year in 2014, Norfolk Southern earned a National TRANSCAER® Achievement Award. The award recognizes exceptional achievement in support of voluntary efforts by companies and others to help communities prepare for and safely respond to incidents involving transport of hazardous materials.
Norfolk Southern teamed with industry partner DuPont on 24 multiday training sessions using a DuPont training tank car. The tank car, moved to training locations by Norfolk Southern, offered responders hands-on training with the type of car the industry uses to transport hazardous material, including lessons on tank car safety features.
In addition, Norfolk Southern worked with the Association of American Railroads and the American Petroleum Institute to develop an industry TRANSCAER training module focused on rail transport of crude oil.
Norfolk Southern played a key role in developing the rail industry’s new “AskRail” mobile device application. The digital app allows emergency responders to use an iPhone or Droid to quickly look up information about the contents of rail cars when responding to a rail emergency, such as a derailment.
The invitation-only app, made available in 2014, provides first responders access to accurate, real-time data about hazardous materials a train is transporting; emergency contact information for Norfolk Southern, other large freight railroads, and Amtrak; and reference resources that can support their incident response.
Access to AskRail is granted only to qualified users and emergency responders who have completed rail emergency training sponsored by Norfolk Southern or other participating railroads.