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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Feds announce final rule for flammable liquids, tank cars

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced yesterday a final rule that amends regulations related to the transportation of flammable liquids by rail.

The rule amends the federal hazardous materials regulations to codify certain requirements of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act), USDOT officials said in a press release.

In May 2015, USDOT officials announced a final rule that included new, enhanced tank car standards and a risk-based retrofitting schedule for older tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol. The rule also required trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids to use a new braking standard; employ new operational protocols such as routing requirements and speed restrictions; share information with local governments; and provide new sampling and testing requirements designed to improve classification of energy products that are being transported.

The requirements codified by the final rule announced yesterday builds on the May 2015 rule. In accordance with the FAST Act, the rule expands the requirements to use the enhanced tank car for shipping all flammable liquids, regardless of train length.

In addition, the new final rule requires all new tank cars be equipped with a thermal protection blanket, and that older tank cars retrofitted to the new design standard be equipped with top fittings protection and a thermal protection blanket.  

Moreover, the FAST Act mandates a modified phaseout schedule for older U.S. DOT-111 tank cars transporting highly flammable liquids that is based on the type of product. When shipping highly flammable, unrefined petroleum products that require a certain level of packaging protection, the FAST Act requires a faster phaseout of the older tank cars.

The final rule soon will be published in the Federal Register.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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