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Yesterday, the Railway Supply Institute's Committee on Tank Cars (RSICTC) sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and other government officials seeking clarification on the outcome of a Jan. 16 meeting between Foxx and representatives of the railroad and petroleum industries. The parties met to discuss concerns related to the transportation of crude oil and ethanol by rail. RSICTC's request to attend the meeting was turned down, which excluded the "actual manufacturers of tank cars and major lessors from this discussion," the letter stated.The U.S. Department of Transportation had told RSICTC that the purpose of the meeting was to "primarily focus on potential changes to railroad operations and material classification procedures," committee officials said. However, according to published accounts of the meeting, the discussions "resulted in new voluntary standards on rail safety that include both energy and railroad interests agreeing on tougher train car standards within 30 days," according to the letter, which was signed by RSI President Thomas Simpson. RSICTC members own or lease about 70 percent of the North American tank car fleet. In March 2011, tank car manufacturers and lessors petitioned the USDOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to adopt new safety standards for DOT-111 tank cars. Because the USDOT did not take "prompt action," tank car manufacturers have voluntarily built all tank cars to a higher standard, dating back to orders placed after October 1, 2011, according to the RSICTC's letter. On Dec. 5, 2013, RSICTC filed comments in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the PHMSA seeking recommendations to improve the safety of tank car transportation. RSICTC's comments supported a rulemaking that would incorporate safety standards for newly built tank cars that have already been adopted by the Association of American Railroads' Tank Car Committee, and allow for modifications to the current tank car fleet, according to RSICTC.
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