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Hazardous local train cargo

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An accident investigation of the derailment indicated the fire had burned for more than a half hour before first responders evacuated some 600 residents from the surrounding area or were able to begin efforts to extinguish the blaze because officials were unable to determine the burning substance.

"Several vehicles were in the roadway near the derailed equipment, with one vehicle on fire. EMS was attending to several injured persons," the investigation report stated. "At this time, responders had not been able to identify the contents of the tank cars or to determine whether pressurized rail tank cars were involved."

The report states that first responders couldn't identify the placards on the tank cars because they weren't visible on the burning cars. It wasn't until the railroad operators informed the local emergency dispatch personnel that the cars contained ethanol that responders began using fire suppressing foam to extinguish the blaze.

The NTSB investigation identified the vulnerability of the DOT-111 tank cars, the effectiveness of CN's internal emergency communications system and accuracy of train contents as safety issues.

Waldron said that CN Transportation is a member of the Association of American Railroads and supports the rail industry's position, which calls for upgrades and phasing out of the DOT-111 cars.

"Freight railroads have for years worked with emergency responders and personnel to educate and inform them about the hazardous materials moving through their communities," the AAR stated in response to the May 7 emergency order. "These open and transparent communications will continue as railroads do all they can to comply with the Department of Transportation's Emergency Order."

In addition to the measures taken under the federal emergency order and advisory, the AAR and federal Department of Transportation in February came to a voluntary agreement regarding the transport of crude oil.

Under the agreement, members of the AAR will make several commitments to improving safety issues, including: increasing track and mechanical inspection frequency beyond current regulations; conducting routing analysis; establishing new speed restrictions; and utilizing braking systems which will reduce piling up of railcars in the event of a derailment.

"We share the administration's vision for making a safe rail network even safer, and have worked together to swiftly pinpoint new operating practices that enhance the safety of moving crude oil by rail," AAR President Ed Hamberger said about the agreement. "Safety is a shared responsibility among all energy supply chain stakeholders. We will work with our safety partners including regulators, our employees, our customers and the communities through which we operate to find even more ways to reinforce public confidence in the rail industry's ability to safely meet the increased demand to move crude oil."

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