Thousands of railcars need updating after crude crashes: Greenbriar CEO

Wed Jan 8, 2014 4:49pm EST
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By Kristen Hays

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Some 80,000 tank cars that don't meet current industry safety standards need to be replaced or retrofitted after several crashes of trains carrying crude oil, the head of railcar maker The Greenbriar Companies said on Wednesday.

Chief Executive William Furman also said "modest but meaningful" improvements that can be implemented immediately could reduce major risks of a hazardous materials leak by as much as 80 percent in derailments.

"We believe a retrofit proposal if adopted can be completed in a reasonably expedited time frame and do not accept that there is not adequate capacity in the industry to do so," Furman said during Greenbriar's quarterly earnings conference call with analysts.

"The concern for public safety here is delay. Delay through the inability to act on the regulatory front while the public would like to see something done sooner."

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is weighing new rules based on petitions from the railroad industry, shippers and recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Furman's comments came after a Canadian National Railway train carrying crude and propane derailed and caught fire late Tuesday in New Brunswick, Canada.

Last week a 106-car BNSF Railway Co crude oil train crashed into a derailed car carrying grain in North Dakota, causing multiple explosions and fires.

No one was hurt in either incident but both are the latest of multiple crude-carrying train accidents in North America that highlight safety issues as the oil-by-rail movement grows in tandem with the U.S. inland oil production boom.   Continued...

A CN worker looks on while working on the railway in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, January 8, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger