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BNSF Railway Co. has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to major rail-car manufacturers to submit bids for the construction of 5,000 "next-generation" tank cars that will be used to transport crude oil.The tank cars are to be built to exceed the new stronger standards the rail industry voluntarily adopted in October 2011 for the CPC-1232 jacketed tank car, BNSF officials said in an emailed statement. The following safety requirements must be met by the selected car builder: the tank car's body shell and head ends must be 9/16-inch thick steel; each car must be equipped with 11 gauge steel jackets and full-height, 1/2-inch-thick head shield; each car must feature a thermal protection system that incorporates ceramic thermal blanketing and an appropriately sized pressure-relief device capable of surviving an ethanol-based pool fire; and each car must feature a bottom outlet valve handle that can be disengaged to prevent unintentional opening."The tank car RFP represents an important milestone in the improvement of safety standards for the transportation of crude by rail," BNSF officials said.The Class I's "voluntary commitment" can help accelerate the transition to the safer, next-generation tank car and provide tank-car builders a head start on car design and production, even as the U.S. Department of Transportation, railroads and shippers continue to engage in the formal rulemaking process, they said."The RFP process will provide market participants more certainty, sooner," BNSF officials believe.BNSF's order is somewhat unusual because Class Is generally don't own tank cars. The vast majority of tank cars are owned and leased by rail customers, including chemical shippers and oil producers.
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