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— by Pat Foran, Editor
In early August, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) was wrapping up its on-site operations in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the scene of the July 6 Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway derailment and explosion; 47 people had been declared dead or presumed missing as of Aug. 1. It will take months for the TSB to piece together precisely what happened and why. But new safety measures already are in place.
For example, on July 23, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive requiring at least two crew members to operate locomotives that haul loaded tank cars transporting hazardous materials. And, no locomotive attached to one or more loaded hazmat tank cars can be left unattended on a main track. Canadian Pacific and CN endorsed the directive. During CP's 2Q earnings call on July 24, CEO Hunter Harrison said his railroad, for one, was working with regulators and other railroads "to see what additional regs, if any, need to be considered." [Note: After this piece was written, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Aug. 2 issued an emergency order and safety advisory to help prevent trains operating on mainline tracks or sidings from moving unintentionally.]
In the United States, a tank-car design rule change was proposed long before the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. Citing the need to allow for additional coordination among government officials and stakeholders, the Obama administration last month delayed by one year a proposed rule to correct a design flaw in DOT-111 cars, which make up most of the crude-by-rail (CBR) fleet.
Amid the politics of energy policy and a renewed awareness of how hazardous materials move (and which mode does the moving), the aforementioned coordination will be critical as stakeholders examine the CBR/hazmat transport landscape, post-Lac-Mégantic. A thoughtful, rational approach to ensuring safer hazmat transport is the right one.
Frank J. Richter, a journalist who covered the rail industry for more than 60 years, including 36 with Progressive Railroading, died July 25 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a long illness. He was 97.
From 1945 through most of this century's first decade, Frank wrote or spoke enthusiastically about what he referred to as rail's "remarkable course" — whether it was within the body of an article he'd written, the context of a presentation he'd given at an industry event or in everyday conversation.
As a journalist — or, as he put it, a "highly interested observer" — his passion for the railroad industry was unmatched. And that passion rubbed off. I'm fortunate to have known him as a colleague and a confidante.
Frank is survived by his wife, Teresita. Our hearts are with Teresita, who has been a friend since I joined the magazine in 1996. We'll publish more about Frank's contributions to the rail industry in our September issue.