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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Regulation: Canada issues order requiring crude classification tests; STB postpones hearing on switching petition

The Canadian government has issued a protective order that requires anyone who imports or transports crude oil to conduct classification tests on the crude, Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced yesterday. The federal order was developed in response to the July 6 Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Effective immediately, classification testing must be performed for any crude classified as "UN 1267" or "UN 1993." In addition, tests results must be made available to Transport Canada upon request, and safety data sheets must be updated and immediately provided to Transport Canada's Canadian Transport Emergency Centre.

Until such testing is completed, all impacted crude must be shipped as a "Class 3 Flammable Liquid Packing Group I" when transported by rail, said Raitt in a press release.

"Our government remains committed to taking action to protect public safety, and we will take targeted action to increase the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods," she said.

Transport Canada continues to work with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) as it investigates the Lac-Mégantic accident. Transport Canada is building upon safety advisories received from the TSB to further enhance the safety of railway operations and transportation of hazardous materials in Canada, said Raitt.

Meanwhile, the long U.S. government shutdown prompted the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to postpone a public hearing on the National Industrial Transportation League's (NITL) petition concerning mandatory competitive switching that was scheduled for Oct. 22. The board plans to reschedule the hearing at a future date.

In 2011, NITL filed the "reciprocal switching" petition, which proposes that certain captive shippers located in terminal areas be granted access to a competing railroad if there is a working interchange within about 30 miles. A competitive switching agreement would not be imposed if either rail carrier can establish that the arrangement is not feasible, unsafe or would "unduly hamper" either carrier's ability to serve its customers.

The STB has received numerous comments in response to NITL's proposal and scheduled the hearing to further explore the issues raised. For example, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) filed comments earlier this year to voice opposition to revised competitive switching rules. Class Is could lose revenue equaling up to 80 percent of their annual capital budgets if the rules proposed by NITL are adopted, AAR officials claim.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/18/2013