Now that Canadians have heard their fill from Railworld Inc.'s President and CEO Edward A. Burkhardt about the company's good safety record despite the tragedy in Lac-Megantic, I wanted to look for myself and see what it really the company's accident record is really like according to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis. On their website, you can search by railroad and get data showing the accident rates for all railways in the United States for the past 10 years.
Here is a chart showing the accident rate for Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA):
You will notice that the accident/incident rate (number of accidents/incidents per million train miles) rose markedly in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to between 50.2 events per year and 69.5 events per year. The number of accidents was actually quite low, ranging between 4 and 7 events per year, however, the number of train miles dropped by nearly one-third to 57,584 miles in 2012 from its peak of 158,891 in 2005 and by nearly half from its 2010 level of 102,233 miles. Fortunately, until now, no fatalities have been experienced in any of these events.
Looking further into the data, MMA has had 18 releases of hazardous material so far this year, its highest level ever; this is concerning because we are only half way into the year. This is up substantially from its 2004 to 2012 average of 3.9 releases per year.
Now, let's look at the overall record for all 788 railroads currently operating in the United States as shown on this chart:
The per million mile accident/incident rate for the period between 2004 and 2013 ranges from a low of 14.1 in 2013 to a high of 19.1 in 2004, averages 16.5 accidents/incidents annually over the 10 year period and there were an average of 14.1 accidents/incidents per railroad in 2013. The average number of releases of hazardous materials for 2013 was 6, one-third the rate experienced by MMA.
Let's summarize by comparing MMA's safety record to the national average:
Unfortunately for the people of Lac-Megantic, the numbers say it all.