November 15, 2013

Railroads back new safety rules for tanker cars

Concerns about the tanker cars are high because of the fiery July crash in Quebec – near the Maine border – which killed 48 people.

By Josh Funk
The Associated Press

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A burned out vehicle sits near the wreckage of tanker cars following the train derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec, on July 7, 2013. U.S. railroads are supporting new safety standards for rail cars that haul flammable liquids to address flaws that can allow crude oil, ethanol and other substances to leak during accidents.


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The AAR says there are 228,000 DOT-111 cars in the fleet of 335,000 active tank cars. Of those, only 92,000 are used for flammable liquids like crude oil and ethanol.

The industry adopted voluntary standards ensuring that all DOT-111s ordered after October 2011 meet tough requirements recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board, following a 2009 crash outside Rockford, Ill., that killed a woman and injured 11 others.

That means about 78,000 of the cars that carry flammable liquids were built to older standards.

The NTSB has said the older DOT-111 cars have a steel shell that is too thin to resist puncture in accidents, and the ends of the car are vulnerable to ruptures. Valves used for unloading and other exposed fittings on the tops of the tankers can also break during rollovers.

The railroad trade group said about 30 percent of the tank cars being used to move crude oil today meet the 2011 voluntary standards the industry adopted.

New safety regulations could be drafted as early as December 5 that could have “game-changing consequences” for tank car manufacturers and strong ripple effects on the rail and energy industries, according to Cowen and Company, an investment banking firm that on Thursday said held an industry conference on shipping crude by rail.

According to the bank, the worst-case scenario would be a mandate requiring retro fitting existing fleets with “jacketing,” a process is so costly and time-consuming that would render much of the fleet almost obsolete.

Staff Writer Tom Bell contributed to this story.


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