Railroads are Key Partners to Improving Transportation Safety

Rail continues to be the go-to method of transporting all kinds of commodities to and from Washington, and for those who had any doubts, the industry is safer than ever before. A recent op-ed in the Puget Sound Business Journal by John Lovenburg, vice president of Environment for BNSF Railway, touted improvements to rail emergency response in recent years that have made the industry “safer today than at any time in history – and it’s safer than any other ground transportation alternative.”

Focusing on Washington and the Pacific Northwest, the piece emphasizes a number of tactics and oversight measures that BNSF has taken to further improve rail safety. The enhancements include a network of highly trained emergency personnel as “BNSF typically trains upwards of 10,000 emergency responders every year, including 900 in Washington,” advanced technologies that are improving coordination between BNSF and response agencies, and even a mobile app to give first responders “car-specific data for hazmat contents and railroad contacts during an incident.”

A key excerpt from the piece notes BNSF’s role as a private sector partner to public safety professionals, providing support to those responders so that they may keep their emphasis on the public:

“A key part of the response strategy is to supplement public resources with robust and specialized private resources so local emergency responders can focus on protecting the public. BNSF has staged response resources that include fire and spill trailers, air monitoring equipment, breathing apparatus, and special supplies and equipment.”

Lovenburg also makes clear the essential role that rail plays in the Pacific Northwest economy, pointing to the “$28.5 billion each year in positive economic impact” that the industry provides. From grain, to consumer products to fossil fuels, he says, the railroads have been the engine of the Pacific Northwest’s economy for over a century.

It is great to see BNSF taking such a proactive role in enhancing rail safety in Washington. Given the “important conversations about freight rail safety and emergency response underway in our country,” it is essential that we recognize the strides in safety and crisis management that the railroads themselves have taken the lead on.

Read the full piece here.