Monday, November 11, 2013

Crude Train Wreck in Alabama

There was a train wreck in rural Alabama early Friday morning that did not get really big play in the national media. A 90-car crude oil train derailed early Friday morning with subsequent fires and explosions. This happened in an area that is relatively inaccessible and no one was hurt, which explains the lack of dramatic press coverage. See press reports here, here and here.

This is the first of these dramatic crude oil unit train derailments in the United States. An industry news report indicated that the railcars were not the DOT 111s that have been in the news because of their tendency to leak in derailments, but rather the DOT 108 type cars. I haven’t heard anything about their resiliency.

Bloomberg is reporting that the National Transportation Safety Board will not be investigating this accident. This is probably due to no lives or serious injuries being involved. There is nothing on the FRA web site about their involvement in an investigation though their web site does say that they investigate any “train accident/incident resulting in a fire, explosion, or release of a regulated hazardous material”. This incident would certainly seem to meet that standard.

This being the third large crude train wreck in the last six months, I expect that we will see congressional hearings on the topic within the next six months.

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