Our Approach to Safety

As a leader in railroad safety, we recognize a safe and secure railroad network is important to our stakeholders and essential to our nation’s future. The accident rate for U.S. railroads is significantly lower than the trucking industry and are some of the lowest in the transportation industry overall.

Our vision is to operate free of accidents and injuries, and every day we work to make that vision a reality through safety programs, training and technology.

BNSF Safety Vision

We are industry leaders in safety. Our grade crossing incident rate has consistently been the lowest among major railroads. We are also a leader in developing new technology to improve the safety of our operations.

We believe every accident or injury is preventable. We work to achieve that vision by:

  • Fostering a culture that makes safety our highest priority and continuously examines the effectiveness of our safety process and performance.
  • Equipping our workspace with resources and tools that create an environment where all known hazards will be eliminated or safeguarded.
  • Promoting work practices and training for all employees that make safety essential to the tasks we perform.
  • Empowering our team to take responsibility for personal safety, the safety of fellow employees and the communities we serve.


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:

  • Employee Safety and Technical Training and Compliance – BNSF has made a significant investment in safety and technical training for employees. 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.
  • Bridge Safety and Inspection – BNSF's Bridge Management Program includes comprehensive inspections and an ongoing commitment to maintaining, repairing and, when necessary, replacing rail bridges on our network. 
  • Rail Grade Crossings – Promoting grade-crossing safety is an essential part of our operation and culture.
  • Train Horn – The train whistle, or horn, is an important feature of our safety practices.
  • 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.
  • Safety for Authorized Visitors – We have rules and safety considerations that all guests must be aware of before and during their visit to any BNSF workplace.

  • Capital Investments – Each year, we plan to invest in our infrastructure and equipment to maintain our network in world-class conditions and create a safer and more reliable railroad.
  • 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)


We emphasize a collaborative approach to safety. Together with Joint Labor Initiatives through our 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.


Railroads carry hazardous freight and it is of the safe handling of these shipments is of the utmost importance to our customers, the communities in which we operate, and our employees. 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.

  • Police Team – The Police team is the law enforcement division of the Resource Protection team. Railroad police are provded authority from state and local governments and are authorized interstate authority by the federal government.
  • First Responder Training – We provide free railroad hazmat response training to local emergency responders across our network.
  • Hazardous Materials Information Request – We created www.bnsfhazmat.com for first responders to request training and resources.
  • Responsible Care – Responsible Care® reinforces BNSF commitments to improve the safety of our operations.

  • 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.