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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-17-003
Synopsis: On Monday, December 30, 2013, at 2:10 p.m. central standard time, a westbound BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) train with 112 cars loaded with grain derailed 13 cars while traveling on main track 1 at milepost 28.5 near Casselton, North Dakota.1 The first car that derailed (the 45th car) fouled the adjacent track, main track 2. At 2:11 p.m. an eastbound BNSF train with 104 tank cars loaded with petroleum crude oil (crude oil), traveling on main track 2, struck the derailed car that was fouling the track and derailed two head-end locomotives, a buffer car, and 20 cars loaded with crude oil.2 After the collision, about 476,000 gallons of crude oil were released and burned. (See figure 1.) On the day of the accident, the weather was cloudy with a temperature of -1°F and winds from the north at 7 mph. No injuries were reported by residents or either of the train crews. The BNSF reported damages of $13.5 million, not including lading and environmental remediation.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Evaluate the risks posed to train crews by hazardous materials transported by rail, determine the adequate separation distance between hazardous materials cars and locomotives and occupied equipment that ensures the protection of train crews during both normal operations and accident conditions, and collaborate with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to revise 49 Code of Federal Regulations 174.85 to reflect those findings.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Casselton, ND, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA14MR004
Accident Reports: Accident Invoving Two Freight TrainsRailroad Accident Brief: BNSF Railway Train Derailment and Subsequent Train Collision, Release of Hazardous Materials, and Fire
Report #: RAB-17-03
Accident Date: 12/30/2013
Issue Date: 3/9/2017
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Acceptable Response)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 7/5/2017
Response: We note that your hazardous materials division is evaluating the risks that rail-transported hazardous materials pose to train crews, and that it is working to establish an appropriate separation distance between occupied locomotives or equipment and hazardous materials to protect train crews. We are also pleased to hear you are working with PHMSA to revise Title 49 CFR section 174.85. Pending completion of these efforts, Safety Recommendation R-17-03 is classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
Date: 5/31/2017
Response: -From Patrick T. Warren, Executive Director: As requested, FRA' s Hazardous Materials Division is evaluating the risks hazardous materials transported by rail pose to train crews, and is working to establish an appropriate separation distance between occupied locomotives or equipment and the hazardous materials cars in a train, to protect train crews during normal operations, and during accidents. FRA is working with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to inform a potential revision of Title 49 Title Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 174.85. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will establish a timeframe for completion of a potential regulatory proposal as part of its rulemaking prioritization. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-17-03 as, "Open-Acceptable Response."

From: FRA
Date: 3/17/2017
Response: -From Karl Alexy, Director, Office of Safety Analysis: Thank you for your March 9, 2017, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) new Safety Recommendation R-17-03 issued to FRA. The NTSB issued this recommendation as a result of its investigation of an accident on December 30, 2013, in which an eastbound BNSF Railway (BNSF) train with 104 tank cars loaded with petroleum crude oil struck a rail car that had fouled the eastbound track when a westbound BNSF train derailed 13 cars loaded with grain. Improving safety is FRA's top priority, and FRA will continue to work to make rail shipments as safe as possible. FRA is committed to working with the NTSB to prevent future accidents and save lives. FRA welcomes and will consider all recommendations that will further that goal.