The state of the rail tracks in the US causes a third of all derailments and increases the risk of oil train accidents.
Data published by the Federal Railroad Administration showed 1,220 reportable train derailments occurred last year costing almost $200 million (£130m) in repair costs, dozens of lives and damage to the environment. Of these derailments 39% were said to be track related.
Just last month an oil train derailed in Virgina causing a huge fireball and spillage. Although the cause of the accident is still being investigated union leaders are clear on what must be done.
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, President Freddie N. Simpson said: “The key to reducing the frequency of oil train derailments plaguing North America is improved track maintenance.”
He added: “Unfortunately, the railroads’ own statistics speak for themselves and track caused derailments – including those involving highly volatile crude oil – continue to be a threat to the nation.
“We can significantly improve railroad safety by improving the quality of the track. The technology, the skilled workers and the higher track standards already exist, this is not rocket science.”
Transporting crude oil on U.S. railroads grew from just 9,500 carloads in 2008 to more than 400,000 carloads in 2013.