Lack of Safety of Crude Oil Trains

Crude oil trains are responsible for transporting this important resource across the country. Given the flammable nature of the product and the high demand, transporting this product can be dangerous.

Growth in the Crude Oil Industry

Oil-bearing traffic by train has generated jobs, income and excess cash flow for consumers in the United States. The amount of train cars transporting crude oil increased by 1,600 percent between 2010 and 2014. This increase signified going from 29,000 cars in 2010 to 490,000 in 2014. Since then, the figures have increased even further in 550,000 train cars carrying crude oil. While the amount of cars moving the substance has increased greatly, the number of accidents has also amplified. New safety procedures are being researched to look for ways to improve protection against overturned cars, spills, leaks and fires.

The Dangers of a Crash

Train collisions are not a frequent occurrence, but they do when they do happen, there are often dangerous consequences. The accidents may cause fires, explosions and severe injury to both human and wildlife. When fires erupt from crashed or overturned crude oil cars, it often takes days to extinguish the hazard, requiring the help of many firefighters and volunteers. Subsequent fires may burn away forests if given the time, and many animals may lose their lives to these incidences. When the flames are out of control, human life may also be lost.

One news report explains that thirteen accidents similar to those causing fires have arisen in the United States and Canada since other disasters in 2013. The Lac-Magantic catastrophe which occurred in 2013 caused the deaths of 47 individuals through a Canadian city crash. This is the last reported disaster in the United States and Canada causing fatalities, but there is always the potential for further incidences. The importance of safety protocols is vital to assist in removing the threat of death from train crashes with crude oil.

Accident Threat Factors

Many different factors add to the possibility of accidents with trains carrying crude oil. Some safety experts are explain that unnecessarily fast traveling speeds along with uncertain train car designs are adding to the risk of potential disaster. Even the newer model trains may be a potential unsafe transport and may cause or become part of an accident.


Many times errors caused by judgment or mistakes by humans are what lead to accidents and train collisions. Roughly 29 percent of United States crashes are caused by human mistakes. These may include health problems, fatigue, sleepiness or medical issues that lead to a lapse in concentration.

The design of these cars may be a contributing factor to these accidents. The cars are usually equipped with shields, heat and cold protections and superior valves. Unfortunately, not all parts and pieces are implemented properly or with the greatest care. If time becomes an issue, security checks may be skipped and defects or loose pieces might lead to spills of oil, fires and leaking canisters. A derailment may cause any of these containers to spew the substance towards flaming areas.

One area that may be overlooked is the railroad construction. Many tracks in different states are in disrepair or require some patch-ups to become fully functional once again. Others have changed sizes or shapes due to weather patterns over years. Some have been intentionally damaged by criminals. Due to a possibly unforeseen event, a derailment or collision may occur.

There is some growing concern that crude oil spills and contamination through train accidents and derailment have started to become a leading issue in safety. Despite this, the industry has continued to work on without conferring with this counsel. Regulatory inspection should become standard to ensure that some accidents may be averted.


Railroads have demanding safety training conditions and severe functioning procedures that detail the transport of dangerous materials to include crude oil. Federal regulations and voluntary safety procedures order speeds, gear and organization examinations.

Some safety standards have been put in place since 2013. Speed restrictions when transporting crude oil have been set.

Protocols for assisting train operators with tracks and siding from unintentional moving have been implemented. Heightened inspections along routes crude oil is transported have been initiated. Enhanced braking and advanced technological systems have been applied for added safety. All this has been put in place to assist in preventing derailment and collision.

Victims’ Options

Collision and derailment may still occur even when preventable measures are available. Such accidents may lead to injury to others. Medical expenses, lost income, long-term treatment and even suffering from emotional trauma may all be covered with the pursuit of a personal injury claim against the party responsible for the accident.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.
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