The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute have contended that rail shipment of hazard materials is the safer mode of transportation and now a real world study agrees. One study in Pennsylvania provides one level of confirmation of that contention.

A study was commissioned in Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania by the county’s Department of Public Safety to test if rail shipment was safer than highway shipment of hazardous materials. The department study found that none of the 88 railroad accidents in the county since 2001 involved hazardous materials, according to a story from the Pittsburgh-Tribune.

The results showed that a hazardous chemical accident in Westmoreland County is more likely to occur on a highway than on a rail line, according to a recent study of shipments on major highways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Pennsylvania highways carried more than 200 million tons of hazardous materials by truck and rail in 2007..

In the Pittsburgh-Tribune article, the American Association of Railroads says that although more materials are shipped by rail nationally, there are fewer accidents because train shipments are routed along the safest and most secure rail lines.

In the past decade, 271 truck accidents involved hazardous materials, ranging from 35 in 2001 to 25 last year, the study showed.

This confirms what ARA and TFI have contended for years.

Although the study in Pennsylvania was conducted mainly for firefighters and other first responders to be able to identify various hazardous materials as training for future possible events, it proved to the ag retail industry that shipping items such as anhydrous ammonia is safer if shipped via the railroads than trucks.

Read the full Pittsburgh-Tribune story here.