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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Tank cars: RSI committee urges PHMSA to approve new-car design, consider proposed safety modifications for older fleets

The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSICTC) is urging the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to support a rulemaking that would enhance the safety of the North American tank-car fleet.

The committee wants PHMSA to formally adopt safety standards for newly built tank cars that have already been adopted by the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) Tank Car Committee, and consider proposed modifications of the current tank-car fleet to enhance safety and minimize engineering risks. RSICTC recommends that the modification process be implemented over a 10-year period, starting with the publication of PHMSA's rulemaking.
The committee's action is in response to PHMSA's advance notice of a proposed rulemaking on recommended improvements to tank-car transportation.

RSICTC plans to work with the AAR's committee to develop two additional standards: a safety relief valve that would further protect a tank against over-pressurization and a bottom outlet valve that would ensure full containment in the event of a derailment. The recommended work would apply to tank cars transporting Class 3, packing group I and II flammable liquids, as well as ethanol and crude oil.

"The RSICTC recommendations and enhancements will contribute to improved safety while addressing the engineering risks and practical constraints associated with other modification proposals," said RSI President Tom Simpson, speaking on behalf of the RSICTC, in a press release. "It is appropriate that this new rulemaking focus on crude oil and ethanol, as shipment of these commodities by railroad unit train has recently experienced tremendous growth in volume. Lower-hazard flammable liquids have not been involved in any of the incidents about which stakeholders are concerned, and should not be inadvertently swept up in this rulemaking."

RSICTC also supports efforts to improve railroad operating practices and procedures, and encourages the USDOT to publish a final rule on improved rail integrity. In addition, the committee backs actions by PHMSA to reduce the risk of misidentification of appropriate hazard class within established DOT hazardous-material regulations.

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