US DOT issues advance notice of proposed rulemaking on improving safety of oil and hazmat rail tank cars
5 September 2013
The US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is seeking public comment to further enhance the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail tank cars, including the DOT 111 tank car, a type of non-pressure tank car commonly used in North America. (DOT 111 tank cars were involved in the Lac Mégantic disaster.) PHMSA has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) reflecting a collection of stakeholder input on rail car safety, including eight petitions for rulemaking and four National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.
The agency is seeking public comment for 60 days on whether the proposals in the ANPRM would enhance safety, as well as general comments on the regulations that apply to transporting hazardous materials by rail. It also addresses operational issues that could limit or prevent derailments.
Recommendations in the ANPRM include enhanced tank head and shell puncture resistance systems for 111 tank cars, as well as top fittings protection that exceed current requirements. These steps reflect recommendations from NTSB investigations, while PHMSA has already addressed a fifth recommendation with the issuance of an advisory bulletin regarding the protection of pipeline facilities near railways.
Now is the time to make sure safety regulations are robust enough for the increased hazmat movement on our rails, roads and in our pipelines, and this proposal is the vehicle for collecting and sharing the best ideas. Rail safety is a national priority, and I encourage everyone to participate and be part of the solution.—PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman
Administrator Quarterman recently visited the Bakken Shale Formation. The area is one of the largest contiguous deposits of oil and natural gas in the United States, found in North Dakota and Montana, where energy production has doubled in the past three years. The Bakken is having a significant impact on the nation’s transportation system as operators move gas and hazardous liquids from the region on trains, trucks and pipelines to locations throughout the country.
The ANPRM is the latest action taken by PHMSA to improve the safe transport of hazardous materials by rail, including a recent safety alert advising shippers and carriers that when required liquefied petroleum gas transported in rail tank cars or cylinders must be properly odorized, enabling shippers, carriers and end users to detect leaks.
In 2009, a final rule required newly constructed tank cars that carry toxic-by-inhalation materials to have a combination of thicker outer jackets and/or inner shells and to use full head shields where not already mandated by regulation. PHMSA also participates in several rail safety initiatives, including the Advanced Tank Car Cooperative Project, the Association of American Railroads’ Tank Car Committee and the Liquefied Natural Gas Technical Advisory Group.
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