Crude Oil Train Secrecy

Hundreds of thousands of tank cars full of crude oil snake across the nation each year, and the number is only increasing — in the last five years, it’s jumped 14-fold. Along with that, there’s been an increased number of accidents, derailments and spills. Public safety advocates are clamoring for more information about where the trains are going and how much crude they’re carrying, but it’s been almost impossible to come by. Regulators don’t collect it and the railroads have refused to disclose it. Why the secrecy?

Data-Dive: Crude-By-Rail’s Safety Record Depends On How You Count

As more and more crude oil travels by rail, the number of railroad accidents involving oil are on the rise, Politico reports. But whether crude-by-rail’s safety record is actually getting worse remains an open question: Are crude-by-rail accidents growing faster than shipments, or are they simply keeping pace? There are a few ways to measure the severity of an accident:

fatalities and injuries
monetary damages
gallons of oil spilled. Politico published the number of crude-by-rail incidents, by year, from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) database and the monetary damages (in dollars) of those incidents. So for now, we’ll focus our analysis on those metrics.