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2015 Community Safety Scorecard

Percentage of hazmat safe deliveries


Accident releases:

4 cars



hazmat carloads

Reportable hazmat incidents:

dropped 23 percent

COMMUNITY SAFETY: Norfolk Southern’s long-term business success depends on safe railroad operations. NS actively engages customers, communities, and other key stakeholders in an effort to continually improve performance in this vital area of corporate sustainability.

“The most important obligation we have to the communities in which we operate is to do so safely. Ensuring that our employees, customers, and neighbors return home safely every day is good business.”
– CEO Jim Squires, at NS’ 2016 annual meeting
View Squires’ full remarks on the corporate website.

Safely moving goods

In 2015, Norfolk Southern continued to demonstrate that rail is a safe and efficient mode to move federally regulated hazardous materials to market. NS’ reportable incidents – nonaccident and accident releases combined – declined by nearly 23 percent from the previous year. That drop came even as the volume of hazmat carloads moved by NS increased by 4 percent.

Partnering with chemical customers

Norfolk Southern recognizes chemical customers that safely ship hazardous product on NS’ rail network.

In 2015, NS presented 60 customers with its Thoroughbred Chemical Safety Award for shipping 224,660 carloads of hazardous material without incident. These chemicals included crude petroleum, ethanol, fertilizers, and chemicals used to manufacture common household products – all vital to the U.S. economy, but potentially dangerous if mishandled or leaked. As a common carrier, NS, like other U.S. railroads, is required by federal law to offer transport of these materials.

NS has presented the safety award since 1999 to customers who ship at least 1,000 tank carloads of hazardous material during a calendar year without incident. To ensure safe transport, NS adheres to comprehensive federal rules covering hazmat transport and has adopted many voluntary safeguards that exceed government regulations. In addition, NS works closely with chemical customers, including providing on-site training in safe rail-shipping practices.

Accidents involving releases

Across NS’ 22-state system, four rail cars involved in three separate accidents released hazardous material during the year. No injuries or long-term environmental impacts occurred. In each case, NS environmental management employees, in partnership with regulatory authorities and licensed contractors, ensured that the spill sites were secured, cleaned, and remediated.

Following is a snapshot of the accident releases:

  • In April, a train operating near Trenton, S.C., derailed after striking a downed tree on the tracks, causing the release of approximately 61,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate from two covered hopper cars. Ammonium nitrate is an important component of many fertilizer mixtures.

  • In July, a tank car leaked about 600 gallons of sodium hydroxide solution after being struck by another tank car as it rolled off of the “hump” track at NS’ Norris Yard in Birmingham, Ala. The incident was linked to a power failure. Many industries use sodium hydroxide, including in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergent, and drain cleaners.

  • In November, a container loaded on a flatcar spilled 8,000 pounds of soil containing polychlorinated biphenyls after the car derailed on an NS switching spur track in Nutley, N.J., An NS train was moving the contaminated soil for a customer involved in a remediation cleanup at a former pharmaceutical plant.

Nonaccident releases

During the year, 54 rail cars being moved by NS leaked small amounts of hazardous materials as the result of nonaccident releases. As defined by the industry, a nonaccident release 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 nonaccident releases involve things such as loose tank car gaskets, valves, and caps. Tank cars used in revenue service to move hazardous materials on Norfolk Southern are owned by customers, who are responsible for maintaining them.

A responsible rail carrier

Safe Tracks, Safe Towns: In 2015, NS invested nearly $900 million to maintain its tracks, with more than 5,500 employees systemwide dedicated to keeping the rail in top working condition.

Norfolk Southern has participated in the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care® Partnership Program since 1996. In 2015, NS earned another three-year recertification for meeting the program’s strict membership standards. That includes demonstration of a culture across all levels of the company to continually identify, reduce, and manage process-safety risks.

NS’ participation in this voluntary program reflects the company’s commitment to work across business sectors to continually improve performance in environmental, health, safety, and security programs involving transport of chemicals.

Partnering with communities

A central focus of Norfolk Southern’s public safety efforts is participation in the voluntary Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response, or TRANSCAER program. In 2015, employees in NS’ Safety and Environmental Department provided training through TRANSCAER for 4,792 emergency responders, government officials, members of the media, and others in 18 states to help their communities better prepare for potential hazmat incidents.

The training included classroom seminars, hands-on sessions with rolling tank cars, table-top simulations, full-scale drills, and exercises at training centers operated by NS and the Association of American Railroads. In addition, NS was instrumental in developing the new AskRail mobile app, which provides real-time rail information to first responders.

A highlight was operation of DuPont training tank cars in a partnership with the chemical company. The tank cars stopped in 25 cities for three days each to train emergency responders.

NS grants equip responders

In 2015, the Norfolk Southern Foundation, which oversees NS’ charitable giving, provided grants totaling $190,750 to help fire, police, and emergency responders purchase safety equipment for their departments. Ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, the grants were awarded to first responders in all 10 of the railroad’s operating divisions.


TRANSCAER achievement award

In 2015, Norfolk Southern earned a National TRANSCAER Achievement Award for the 16th time and 14th consecutive year. The award recognizes exceptional achievement in support of efforts to help communities prepare for and safely respond to potential incidents involving transport of hazardous materials.

Crude-by-rail training continues in 2015

In 2015, Norfolk Southern sponsored training for 80 emergency responders at a three-day crude-by-rail safety course at the Association of American Railroads’ Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colo. In addition, NS sponsored training for 10 emergency responders attending the railroad’s course on tank car emergency response.

Including 2014, NS has invested around $800,000 in training nearly 220 first responders to safely respond to potential incidents involving crude oil transport. NS sponsored emergency responders from communities where crude oil trains operate, including responders from Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

NS safety train reflects commitment to communities

In 2015, Norfolk Southern launched its Operation Awareness & Response program to cultivate and strengthen relationships with local first responders – and to educate the public about the economic benefits of moving hazardous materials by rail. The program provides classroom, online, and field training on hazardous materials transport and useful information about rail operations.

In April 2016, NS rolled out the program’s centerpiece: a hazmat safety train. The company also launched a new website,

The safety train includes a locomotive painted in honor of emergency responders with insignia recognizing police, fire, and emergency services; two boxcars converted into classrooms; and four styles of tank cars.

New 9-1-1 locomotive honors first responders

In June 2015, Norfolk Southern commissioned the NS 9-1-1 locomotive in the nation’s capital to honor emergency first responders. The unit features the Maltese Cross of fire services, the Emergency Medical Services’ “Star of Life,” and the police shield. It also features the logo for TRANSCAER.

Reaching people where they live
“Brainy” and “Whistle Stop” trips promote community rail safety

Norfolk Southern trains run through thousands of communities in the eastern U.S., delivering goods that support local economies and residents. To promote safe rail operations, NS invests in community awareness programs that target two troublesome areas: trespassing on railroad tracks and unsafe motorist behavior at highway-rail grade crossings.

A survivor tells his story: On Norfolk Southern’s 2015 Whistle Stop tours, Mark Kalina Jr. shared his story about the night he took a shortcut through another railroad’s yard in Ohio. A train severed his legs after he tripped and fell.

NS’ two largest outreach efforts in 2015 were its “Whistle Stop” train trips and the “Train Your Brain” campaign, featuring Brainy, the railroad’s pink safety ambassador. The railroad’s Safety and Environmental Department partnered with Operation Lifesaver, a national nonprofit safety organization, on the Whistle Stop tours.

Whistle Stop: NS operated two of these three-day train trips, with the theme, “See Tracks? Think Train!” One stopped in seven cities in South Carolina and North Carolina; the other stopped in six Ohio cities. The trains gave rides to key stakeholders, including state lawmakers; police, fire, and emergency medical responders; civic leaders; and city and county council members. NS and Operation Lifesaver representatives used the outings as an opportunity to build relationships and discuss safety messages the guest passengers could take into their communities.

Train Your Brain: This campaign targeted 11 communities in south-central Georgia along a corridor from Macon to Valdosta. In 2014, NS trains were involved in 45 collisions at grade crossings in Georgia that resulted in six deaths and 20 injuries.

Outreach included distributing branded homework folders and rail safety activity sheets to 71 elementary schools and handing out branded driver’s education kits to 18 high schools. Brainy appeared at high school football games, festivals, and other community events. NS added a page to its website that allows users to make a “Railroad Smart Pledge” commitment to loved ones.

To complement the new “i am Coming Home” safety message for employees, NS launched a “Cross carefully, get home safely” campaign featuring roadside billboards, gasoline pump “toppers,” and ads in movie theater lobbies, among other advertising.

See tracks? Think trains! Highway-rail incidents

In 2015, highway-rail grade crossing incidents involving Norfolk Southern trains declined by 12 percent. These incidents involve motorists and passing trains, most often occurring when motorists ignore flashing warning lights at railroad crossings or drive around crossing gates. Two-thirds of the incidents occurred in six of NS’ 22 operating states: Indiana (with the most, at 54), Georgia, Ohio, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
# of highway-rail incidents 365 336 344 373 328
# of train miles (millions) 83 87 95 96 96.4
Incidents per million train miles 4.4 3.9 3.6 3.9 3.4

Walking on tracks is trespassing: Trespasser incidents

While trespasser injuries on Norfolk Southern property declined 9 percent overall in 2015, the number of fatalities involving trespassers increased 21 percent. Much of NS’ public outreach around rail safety is to make people aware that the company’s train tracks are private property and that walking on them is dangerous and illegal.

  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total Trespasser Injuries 123 145 180 148 134
Total Trespasser Fatalities 62 82 99 84 102

Actively engaging communities

Employees across Norfolk Southern’s system play a role in educating the public about safety around trains and railroad tracks. For example, in Alabama, members of a local safety and service committee sponsored a family day cookout for the Collinsville community in a park near NS tracks. The committee’s chairman, who volunteers for Operation Lifesaver, taught a class of elementary school students about railroad safety.

“We pass through these communities every day, and you want to make it the best you possibly can for them,” said Jeremy Pate, a locomotive engineer based in Birmingham. “You don’t want to take anything away from them. You want to bring something to the table if you can.”