Transportation officials also have been working with the oil industry to make sure crude loaded onto trains is properly classified, so that responders know what they're dealing with when an accident or spill occurs.
Companies are required to determine the volatility of oil being shipped, but there are no mandated testing protocols, according to transportation officials.
The North Dakota oil involved in July's Lac-Megantic accident had been misclassified as posing a minor danger.
Earlier this month, government investigators announced that 11 of 18 samples of oil being taken to rail loading stations in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana were misclassified. Hess Corp., Whiting Oil and Gas Corp., and Marathon Oil Co. face proposed fines of $93,000 for the alleged violations.
Since 2008, the number of tanker cars hauling oil has increased 40-fold, and federal records show that's been accompanied by a dramatic spike in accidental crude releases from tank cars.
While severity of recent accidents and their potential for even more serious consequences has raised safety concerns, transportation officials point out that over the past decade, derailments have decreased by 47 percent.
Hamberger of the railroad association said the commitments unveiled Friday underscore the high priority the industry has put on safely transporting crude. He suggested that compliance would not be a problem.
"Number one it's better for safety, and number two their reputation is on the line," he said.
Lowy reported from Washington, D.C.
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