Our Approach to Safety

Our approach to transporting hazardous materials safely is to prevent incidents with state-of-the-art safety programs, mitigate their effect with safer tank cars, and respond with our public partners in the most effective way possible to avoid injury and environmental damage.


Safety is at the heart of our culture; our people are partners in reducing risk every day. Employees are trained in a comprehensive set of safety practices and rules based on BNSF-specific initiatives, federal requirements and industry recommendations.

  • BNSF handles all car types allowed under federal regulation for crude oil and ethanol but we are working with our individual customers to facilitate getting the newest and safest tank cars in service sooner on our railroad. BNSF doesn’t own the tank cars used to ship crude oil or ethanol on our network, however it is incumbent on all parts of the supply chain to ensure we have the safest tank car in which to move these commodities.
  • BNSF leads the industry in installing and testing Positive Train Control technology. This digital wireless system uses global positioning data to monitor train movement, providing warnings to crews, enforcing speed limits and stopping the train when certain conditions arise, such as a switch left in the wrong position.
  • We completed PTC installation across more than 11,500 route miles and 80 percent of our freight volume. All major crude routes are equipped with PTC.
  • We invest in ongoing safety and technical training for employees, using a combination of field, on-the-job, long-distance and technical training.
  • BNSF uses a sophisticated routing model in partnership with key government agencies* to help determine the safest and most secure routes for transporting crude oil.

* Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Transport Security Administration (TSA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)


Together with our industry partners, we have been longtime proponents of ensuring all commodities, including crude oil and ethanol, are moved in railcars built to stringent safety standards.

  • BNSF does not own the tank cars in which crude and ethanol move, but we advocate for enhanced design and construction of tank cars.
  • As an extra precaution, we introduced a more stringent speed restriction of 35 mph for crude oil in densely populated cities compared to the federal requirement of 40 mph in High Threat Urban Areas.


We are committed to providing first responders with information on crude shipments as requested.

  • BNSF offers a real-time Geographic Information System tracking application for state emergency response agencies, enabling local first responders to quickly identify the contents and relative location of any BNSF train.
  • We provide specialized free training to first responders across the country on best practices for handling product containment in the event of a spill and extinguishing fires with ethanol and crude.
  • BNSF was the first railroad in the industry to deploy a fleet of industrial fire-fighting foam trailers on our network, and we pre-position responders and specialized equipment. These resources are available to other railroads and communities as needed.
  • We develop and share geographic emergency response plans with state and local first responder organizations, and distribute a computer-based training program to every fire department within two miles of our rail lines.


Local emergency responders trained by BNSF last year.


The number of times since 1998 that BNSF earned a national award for helping communities prepare for and respond to possible incidents involving hazardous material transport.


Locations across the BNSF rail network where more than 160 trained hazmat responders and hazmat advisors are pre-positioned and supported by specialized response equipment.