Our Approach to Safety

Our approach to transporting hazardous materials safely is to prevent incidents with state-of-the-art technology and 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.


Rail is the safest way to transport hazardous materials over land - 99.9% of all hazmat shipments reach their destination without impact. Our safety vision is to operate free of accidents and injuries by preventing them through:

  • Capital Investments – In 2023, we plan to invest $3.96 billion on our infrastructure and equipment to maintain our network in world-class conditions and create a safer and more reliable railroad.
  • Employee Training and Compliance – our employees are trained in a comprehensive set of safety practices and rules based on BNSF-specific initiatives, federal requirements and industry recommendations.
  • Track and Equipment Inspections – BNSF regularly inspects all components of our network, including track, rail and bridges. Trained inspectors utilize instrument-equipped rail cars and we deploy technology like Machine Vision Systems, ultrasound and ground-penetrating radar. Trackside detectors monitor every locomotive and railcar 24/7 so we identify potential issues before they occur.
  • Positive Train Control – BNSF led the industry in implementing PTC to monitor and stop train movements in certain conditions, covering 80% of our freight volume.
  • Key Routes - BNSF uses a sophisticated routing model in partnership with key government agencies* to help determine the safest and most secure routes for transporting hazardous materials.

* 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 are moved in railcars built to stringent safety standards.

  • BNSF does not own the tank cars, but we advocate for their enhanced design and construction of tank cars.
  • We incentivized the move to DOT 117s, the enhanced tank car, ahead of federal regulations.
  • As an extra precaution, we restrict speed to 35 mph for all key trains in large municipal areas.


While we have made significant progress in reducing the likelihood of a hazmat incident, we also ensure that BNSF and the communities we serve are prepared to respond if an incident occurs.

  • We provide free railroad hazmat response training to local emergency responders across our network. BNSF trained 128,000+ emergency responders since 1996, including 4,000+ in 2022.
  • We created www.bnsfhazmat.com for first responders to request training and resources.
  • Together as an industry, we launched the AskRail app providing first responders with car-specific data for hazmat contents and railroad contacts.
  • We provide hazmat traffic flow reports upon request to emergency managers and fire chiefs.
  • 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.
  • 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 offer online training for fire departments.


Local emergency responders trained by BNSF last year.


Locations across the BNSF rail network where more than 180 trained hazmat responders and advisors are pre-positioned and supported by specialized response equipment


Of all BNSF hazmat shipments reach their destination without a release caused by a train accident