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Rail News: Safety

Transport Canada tightens regulations, oversight of hazmat movements by rail

Yesterday, Transport Canada announced a series of "decisive actions" to address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's initial recommendations in light of the ongoing investigation of the Lac-Mégantic train derailment.

The measures will further strengthen Canada's regulation and oversight of rail safety and the transportation of hazardous materials by rail, according to a press release.

Effective immediately, Transport Canada will:
• issue a protective direction removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service;
• require DOT-111 tank cars used to transport crude oil and ethanol that do not meet the standards published in January 2014 in Canada Gazette, Part I, or any other future standard, to be phased out or retrofitted within three years;
• issue a protective direction requiring emergency response assistance plans for crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and ethanol;
• create a task force that brings stakeholders such as municipalities, first responders, railroads and shippers together to strengthen emergency response capacity across the country; and
• require railroads to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods, and implement other key operating practices.

In response to Transport Canada's announcement, Canadian Pacific officials said they welcome the new requirements related to older DOT-111 tank cars, but are disappointed with the federal government's "incomplete actions" when it comes to addressing human behavior factors that impact rail safety in Canada.

"While we will comply will all the orders, I must again reiterate that reducing train speeds does not address the causes of railway accidents, nor is it a solution to rail safety," said CP Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison in a prepared statement. "Human behaviors are a significant factor and should be the focus if the goal is to truly improve safety."

Regulatory changes that would support the use of inward-facing cameras in locomotives for compliance monitoring, as well as a program to reduce grade crossings to decrease the likelihood of crossing accidents would be key to further advancing rail safety, CP officials believe.

Meanwhile, officials at the Association of American Railroads (AAR) believe Transport Canada's action plan shows that the agency recognizes the efforts railroads have voluntarily made to improve safety since last summer.

"Railroads also have been in the vanguard of those calling for the aggressive retrofit of phase-out of older tank cars currently in service moving flammable liquids, including crude and ethanol," said AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger. "Transport Canada has indeed recommended an aggressive timeline and we are confident that the industry will do all it can to meet it."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/24/2014