(KFVS) - Last summer, a train carrying oil derailed in Canada. The blast that followed killed nearly 50 people.
Leaders of the National Transportation Safety Board claim trains are hauling more oil than ever. That's something they say is dangerous, especially because it's coming through our backyards.
From crude oil, to nitrate, to certain kinds of fertilizer, there are all kinds of things riding the local rails that could be dangerous. However, officials with rail companies say no matter that they're hauling, safety is the number one priority.
According to the NTSB, scenes of oil train explosions with billowing black smoke becoming more common. Last week, rail and transportation safety leaders met in Washington D.C. to discuss this rising issue.
"If crude has a high percentage of dissolved gases, or high vapor pressure, what happens to that pressure as the crude travels in a sealed tank car over many miles of track?" Dr. Magdy El-Sibaie, the Hazardous Materials Safety department, said.
So, how can we rest assured here at home that the things that pass by on the tracks are safe?
Dan Overby is the executive director of the SEMO Port.
"We are really at the crossroads of the nation for handling all kinds of freight," Overby said. "We see a lot of chemical traffic that comes through here."
While oil trains currently do not come through SEMO Port, Overby says all hazardous materials are handles with more safe guards. For example, workers label cars with hazardous material signs.
"I am putting a placard on the railcar to show what it's got in it," one worker said. "It shows that it's got nitrate in it. It's an explosive product, can be."
Also, if you're hauling dangerous chemicals, you carry a book filled with guidelines.
"You can look into the guide itself and it'll tell you what to do if you have a spill, how do you handle it, how far away do you get," Overby said.
However, workers at Union Pacific say there are many more rules they have to follow.
"In some cases, we have found over the years that reducing a train speed is beneficial, other times it is sitting on committees to redesign a tank car," Mark Davis said.
Davis says rail companies must follow guidelines from the Federal Railroad Administration.
"Union Pacific, over the years, has met or beat that criteria with the end result of reducing derailments," Davis said.
However, nationwide, those derailments have gone up. So, the FRA is upping the regulations. The latest proposed rule includes requiring two-person crews on crude oil trains.
Oil isn't the most common thing hauled through the Heartland, however we do see some oil trains along with other hazardous chemicals.
"There is always a risk of danger, but the railroads go to great lengths to make sure it's handled safely," Overby said.
However, the FRA says that's not enough. More changes are expected to come.
"The rail industry is the safest mode of transportation for any material considered hazardous. We are always working to better that," Davis said.
You can click here for more information on train accidents and oil transports.