Claude Mongeau made the point in a speech to an Edmonton business audience.
Mongeau says CN (TSX:CNR) has a good safety record and is taking steps to be more vigilant since the disaster in Lac Megantic, Que., last July that killed 47 people and destroyed part of the town.
A train transporting crude oil was left unattended by a crew member and more than 60 tank cars derailed, some exploding.
Mongeau says to reduce the potential for accidents, CN is improving its procedures for securing trains and plans to retrofit or phase out older cars used to transport flammable liquids.
He says CN is also using policies required in the U.S. that restrict the speed of trains that haul crude oil and ethanol.
"Dangerous goods are an important part of how all of us live and a major business for us," Mongeau said in a release Thursday.
"Because of that, we know we have a clear obligation to transport these products safely."
Earlier this month, the National Energy Board released data that showed oil-by-rail exports from Canada had risen ninefold in less than two years.
The energy regulator's figures showed more than 146,000 barrels per day were exported on trains in the last three months of 2013, compared with just under 16,000 in the first three months of 2012.
Mongeau said the number of main-track rail accidents involving CN dropped by more than 50 per cent between 2003 and 2013 and that virtually all of the dangerous goods it ships arrive without any problems.
In March, CN announced it will phase out its 183 DOT-111 cars used to transport internal supplies of locomotive diesel fuel over the next four years as part of a move to improve rail safety. The Montreal-based company plans to invest $7 million this year to replace the 40 tank cars it owns and will gradually replace the remaining 143 cars as their leases expire.
The Association of American Railroads has recommended the retrofitting or phase-out of the old DOT-111 cars used to transport flammable liquids and a reinforced standard for new tank cars.
The DOT-111 tank car is considered the workhorse of the North American fleet and makes up about 70 per cent of all tankers on the rails.
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