Skip to Highlights
Highlights

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, concerns have been raised that the nation's shipments of hazardous materials by rail may be vulnerable to terrorist attack. Millions of tons of hazardous materials are shipped yearly across the United States. Serious incidents involving these materials have the potential to cause widespread disruption or injury. GAO was asked to examine recent steps taken by industry and government to improve the safety and security of these shipments and steps taken by local jurisdictions to prepare to respond to hazardous material rail incidents.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security To help meet the requirement to secure all modes of transportation under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security work jointly with the Secretary of Transportation to develop a risk-based plan that specifically addresses the security of the nation's rail infrastructure. This plan should build upon the railroad industry's experience with rail infrastructure and the transportation of hazardous materials and establish time frames for implementing specific security actions necessary to protect hazardous material rail shipments. Among the areas that should be addressed in developing this plan are (1) the appropriate roles of the private sector and federal, state, and local governments, (2) minimum security standards for hazardous materials stored in transit in rail cars, and (3) the appropriate level of disclosure to local communities of the types and quantities of hazardous materials passing through or stored in transit in these communities.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2005, DHS and DOT issued the National Strategy for Transportation Security, which outlines the federal government's approach--in partnership with state and local governments and the private sector--to secure the transportation system from terrorist attacks and threats. The plan describes the policies that the Departments will use to manage the risks to the security of the transportation system, including the rail system. For each mode, the plan identifies the risks posed and risk mitigation efforts. The plan also identifies the roles and responsibilities of the federal government, state and local governments, and the private sector.
Department of Transportation To help meet the requirement to secure all modes of transportation under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security work jointly with the Secretary of Transportation to develop a risk-based plan that specifically addresses the security of the nation's rail infrastructure. This plan should build upon the railroad industry's experience with rail infrastructure and the transportation of hazardous materials and establish time frames for implementing specific security actions necessary to protect hazardous material rail shipments. Among the areas that should be addressed in developing this plan are (1) the appropriate roles of the private sector and federal, state, and local governments, (2) minimum security standards for hazardous materials stored in transit in rail cars, and (3) the appropriate level of disclosure to local communities of the types and quantities of hazardous materials passing through or stored in transit in these communities.
Closed - Implemented
On 3/23/04 and again on 5/5/04, DOT/FRA testified before Congress on its activities in conjunction with DHS to enhance the security of the nation's rail infrastructure and specifically the transporation of hazardous materials by rail. Their actions addressed the relative responsibilities of DHS, DOT/FRA and the private sector in overseeing rail security; the DOT requirement that all railroads conduct risk assessments and develop security plans that address the shipment and storage of hazardous materials; and joint risk assessments of hazardous material shipments by rail with a local jurisdiction intended to serve as a model for collaboration with other jurisdictions.

Full Report