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The project represents a yearlong examination of the response to safety problems associated with a massive and sudden increase in crude oil transported by rail. It found that government and industry had failed to identify and correct safety gaps in the rail system, including the inspection and maintenance of track and bridges and the design of the tank cars carrying the oil. It also showed that government efforts to better inform local emergency response personnel still left them in the dark on some types of crude oil moved by rail and on smaller shipments. Additionally, the project detailed efforts by railroads and some states to keep even limited information about crude oil trains out of public view.
16 years after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill efforts to reduce crew work hours, crack down on alcohol use and improve tug escorts are being evaded or undermined. The industry and regulators are relying on new tankers they say are far less susceptible to trouble. But the investigation revealed that spills have gone unreported, alcohol is still being consumed on the ships and risky behavior is still characteristic in the industry.