DOT agencies take coordinated actions to increase crude-by-rail safety
Perhaps the most significant, extensive changes in crude-by-rail transportation were made on May 1, 2015, by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and its agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The changes are contained in a “final rule” for “the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail.”
Developed in coordination with Canadian authorities, the final rule focuses on safety improvements that are designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response. “Our close collaboration with Canada on new tank car standards is recognition that the trains moving unprecedented amounts of crude by rail are not U.S. or Canadian tank cars, they are part of a North American fleet, and a shared safety challenge,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
“This stronger, safer, more robust tank car will protect communities on both sides of our shared border,” said Canadian Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt. “Through strong collaboration, we have developed a harmonized solution for North America’s tank car fleet.
What follows is a summary of key points in the May 1 final rule.
Enhanced standards for new and existing tank cars, for use in an HHFT (high-hazard flammable train). New tank cars constructed after Oct. 1, 2015, are required to meet the new DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria, Fig. 1. The prescribed car has a 9/16-in. tank shell; 11-gauge jacket; ½-in., full-height head shield; thermal protection; and improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves. Existing tank cars must be retrofitted with the same key components based on a prescriptive, risk-based retrofit schedule. As a result of the aggressive, risk-based approach, the final rule will require replacing the entire fleet of DOT-111 tank cars for Packing Group I, which covers most crude shipped by rail, within three years, and all non-jacketed CPC-1232s, in the same service, within approximately five years.
Enhanced braking to mitigate damage in derailments. The rule requires HHFTs to have in place a functioning, two-way end-of-train (EOT) device or a distributed power (DP) braking system. Trains meeting the definition of a “high-hazard flammable unit train,” or HHFUT (a single train with 70 or more tank cars loaded with Class 3 flammable liquids), with at least one tank car with Packing Group I materials, must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by Jan. 1, 2021. All other HHFUTs must have ECP braking systems installed after 2023.
Reduced operating speeds. The rule restricts all HHFTs to 50 mph in all areas. HHFTs containing any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards required by this rule are restricted to operating at a 40-mph speed restriction in high-threat urban areas. The 40-mph restriction for HHFTs without new or retrofitted tank cars is also currently required under FRA’s Emergency Order No. 30 (see April actions section below).
Rail routing–more robust risk assessment. Railroads operating HHFTs must perform a routing analysis that considers, at a minimum, 27 safety and security factors, including “track type, class, and maintenance schedule” and “track grade and curvature,” and select a route based on its findings.
Rail routing–improved information sharing. This ensures that railroads provide state and/or regional fusion centers, and state, local and tribal officials with a railroad point-of-contact for information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions. This replaces the proposed requirement for railroads to notify state emergency response commissions (SERCs) or other appropriate state-designated entities about the operation of these trains.
More accurate classification of unrefined petroleum-based products. Offerors must develop and carry out sampling and testing programs for all unrefined petroleum-based products, such as crude oil, to address the criteria and frequency of sampling to improve and ensure accuracy. Offerors must certify that hazardous materials subject to the program are packaged in accordance with test results, document the testing and sampling program outcomes, and make that information available to DOT personnel upon request.
APRIL DOT ACTIONS
Two weeks earlier, on April 17, 2015, DOT announced—along with its agencies, FRA and PHMSA—a package of targeted actions, ahead of the final rule, that address some of the issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail.
Indeed, these actions, along with the final rule, represent nearly 30 moves that DOT has initiated over the last 19 months to address what it considers “the significant threat to public safety that accidents involving trains carrying highly flammable liquids can represent.” The April 17 announcement includes one Emergency Order, two Safety Advisories, and notices to industry intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids. “These are important, common sense steps,” said Acting FRA Administrator
The first of the April 17 actions involves preliminary investigation of one recent derailment, which indicated that a mechanical defect involving a broken tank car wheel may have caused or contributed to the incident. Accordingly, the FRA is recommending that only the highest-skilled inspectors conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids, and that industry decrease the threshold for wayside detectors that measure wheel impacts, to ensure the wheel integrity of tank cars in those trains.
The second action concerns recent accidents, which revealed that certain critical information, about any train and its cargo, needs to be available immediately for use by emergency responders or federal investigators, who arrive on the scene shortly after an incident. Accordingly, PHMSA is issuing a safety advisory, reminding carriers and shippers of the specific types of information (Table 1) that they must make available immediately to emergency responders. In addition, FRA and PHMSA are issuing a joint safety advisory, requesting that specific information (Table 2) also be made readily available to investigators.
In the third action, DOT has determined that “public safety compels issuance of an Emergency Order (EO), to require that trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquids through certain, highly populated areas adhere to a maximum authorized operating speed limit of 40 mph in ‘High Threat Urban Areas.’” Under the EO, an affected train is one that contains: 1) 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block, or 35 or more loaded tank cars of Class 3 flammable liquid; and, 2) at least one DOT Specification 111 (DOT-111) tank car (including those built in accordance with AAR Casualty Prevention Circular 1232) loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid.
The actions taken on April 17 coincide with moves being made by other governmental agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy. Since 2013, there have been 23 crude-related train accidents in the U.S., with the majority of incidents occurring without the release of any crude oil product. The actions taken on April 17 can be found at the following link: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat/osd/chronology.Related Articles
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