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Rep. Lipinski and Freight Rail Officials Unveil New Technology to Improve Community Safety in Response to Hazmat Accidents (June 8, 2015)

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) joined today with area first responders and rail industry leaders at a BNSF Railway facility in Chicago to demonstrate new electronic, smart-app safety technology – called AskRail –that will allow first responders who show up at the scene of a train accident to quickly find out what type of hazardous materials are being carried on each rail car.  The critical need for this technology has been made more evident by recent rail accidents that have resulted in fires and the release of hazardous materials. 

“Northeastern Illinois is at the center of the nation’s freight transportation system and is the nation’s rail hub, so I am committed to making sure that America’s rails are as safe as possible,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “But in the event of an accident, I want to make sure our first responders have the best possible capabilities to protect our communities.  I have been pushing the federal government and the railroads to develop an electronic system so that no first responder ever again has to board a locomotive to find out what types of hazardous materials are being carried on a train that has been in an accident.  I am happy the railroads have responded with the AskRail technology.  This will greatly help our first responders and make our communities safer.” 

“AskRail gives first responders immediate and accurate information about railcars carrying hazardous materials and is an invaluable tool for helping prepare those on the front line should a rail incident occur,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger.  “Coupled with emergency training and response planning, AskRail augments the flow of information and specifics between freight railroads and emergency first responders in communities along the nation’s 140,000-mile freight rail network.”

Currently, paper manifests are the only form of documentation that must be carried by hazardous material transporters.  The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has been working to complete a pilot program – called the HM-ACCESS program – that will establish the viability of mandating electronic shipping papers in addition to the paper version.  However, PHMSA’s pilot program has been continually delayed.  Congressman Lipinski has a bill to create a national standard for electronic shipping papers and plans to continue to push PHMSA to complete the HM-ACCESS program, while also focusing on the expansion of the smart-app technology introduced today.