Tank Cars Inspected as Part of Handoff Process

Yardperson Davida Flowers visually inspects a tank car | MR

Union Pacific Yardperson Davida Flowers performs a visual inspection on a tank car.

Union Pacific’s mission is to connect our nation’s businesses and communities to each other and the world. To do this, we coordinate with other railroads to find the optimal routing so customers’ shipments arrive as quickly and consistently as possible.

A recent story linked a rail car that traveled on the Union Pacific network to the tragic East Palestine, Ohio, derailment. At any given moment, all rail cars traveling cross-country have at some point been on another carrier’s rail network.

The common carrier obligation requires Union Pacific to transport hazardous materials and to bear almost all associated risks while the cars are on its property; 99.9% of all hazmat shipments by rail reach their destination without incident.

Similar to shipping guidelines for other products, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) govern rail car standards for hazardous materials shipments.

Union Pacific does not own the tank cars that move on its tracks or choose their origins or destinations where they are shipped. Customers who don’t own their tank cars lease them from a leasing company that owns the equipment.

When a tank car or any other rail car is added to a train on the Union Pacific network, a Union Pacific employee performs a Class 1 airbrake inspection to make sure airbrakes are properly functioning. The employee also performs a visual inspection for mechanical defects, looking for anything that would affect the running function of the rail car. At the same time, tank cars are inspected for markings, labels, placards, securement of closures and leakage.

Employee examination of electronic data is a part of that handoff between railroads. Union Pacific uses a series of detection devices, including wheel/bearing temperature sensors, to monitor equipment function as cars move across its network. Employees review the trend data compiled by those sensors in an attempt to identify equipment trending toward malfunction or failure.

Our regionally based hazardous materials teams also perform about 5,000 tank car inspections annually, auditing everything from tank car fittings and car markings to safety appliances. They also work alongside our contractors, our customers, and government regulators to inspect, report and remedy findings.

Our vigilance goes well beyond our hazmat team. All Union Pacific employees are trained regarding hazardous materials safety. Our train crews know, understand and carry proper instructions when operating a train carrying hazardous materials.

Read more about our safety procedures for hazardous materials shipments and the many steps we take to prevent derailments.

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