The Federal Railroad Administration said it is partnering with chemical and transportation firms in an effort to improve the safety of rail shipments of hazardous materials, including toxic inhalation hazards and high-risk gases and liquids, the Associated Press reports. FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman said the agency signed a memorandum of cooperation with Dow Chemical Co., Union Pacific Railroad and Chicago-based Union Tank Car Co. to participate in its Next Generation Rail Tank Car Project. FRA''s focus is on the type of material and thickness of the outer shell, and the type and design of the insulation between that shell and the inner tank, to reduce the chances that a collision will result in the release of hazardous materials. The agency also is evaluating energy absorbers, anti-climbing devices and other technologies designed to prevent a tank car derailment by keeping it upright and on the tracks after an accident. The agency is considering issuing new federal design standards for hazardous materials tank cars and hopes to issue a final rule next year, Boardman said in a release.