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BNSF To Take Bids To Buy Up To 5,000 Safer Oil Railcars


HOUSTON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - BNSF Railway Co plans to buy its own fleet of up to 5,000 new crude oil tank cars with safety features that exceed the latest standards adopted by the industry more than two years ago, the unit of investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc said on Thursday.

The unusual step is intended to further the industry's push for safer movement of crude by rail in light of several derailments and crashes in recent months, including one involving a BNSF train in North Dakota last December.

The company, a major mover of crude by rail throughout the United States, plans to seek bids from railcar makers for up to 5,000 new tank cars with more safety features than those that already meet stronger industry standards, such as thicker walls, thicker ends and more protection of safety and pressure valves.

BNSF's plan is atypical for a railroad, which generally owns only the tracks and locomotives that pull trains. Railcars are usually owned by companies that lease them to others that rely on rail transport such as refiners Phillips 66 and PBF Energy Inc, which buy as well as lease their own cars.

The December crash of a BNSF crude train in North Dakota involved railcars that do not meet industry safety standards, according to investigators. The train collided with a derailed grain train, setting off fires that burned for more than a day. No one was hurt.