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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA, Transport Canada issue final rules to secure trains


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Transport Canada yesterday finalized new rules for securing trains in an effort to prevent rail disasters such as the deadly 2013 derailment of a crude-oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

In separate statements, the agencies announced a series of procedures and safety measures to secure unattended trains that carry crude oil or ethanol, or poisonous, toxic, or highly flammable materials.

Railroad employees responsible for securing an unattended train will now be required to communicate with someone else who is trained on the railroad's securement requirements to verify that trains and equipment are properly secured, according to the FRA.

The rule, which will go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's attempt to improve the safety of moving crude oil and certain other hazardous materials by rail, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

"Verifying that a train has been properly secured is a common sense solution to prevent accidents," he said.

The FRA's new rule requires:
• a qualified and trained railroad employee to properly secure the equipment and verification of the securement with a second trained and qualified employee;
• additional communication, including job briefings among crew members responsible for the train securement;
• properly installed and utilized exterior locks on locomotives; 
• the setting of sufficient handbrakes;
• removal of the train reverser; and
• the proper use of train air brakes.

The rule applies to unattended trains carrying any poisonous by inhalation and toxic by inhalation hazardous materials; and trains carrying 20 or more cars of other high-hazard flammable materials.

"Requiring that an additional, trained individual double check that the handbrakes have been set on a train will help stop preventable accidents," said Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. "While today's rule came out of a lesson learned from the Lac-Megantic derailment, FRA will not hesitate to take additional actions to keep the rail system in the United States safe."

The agencies' rules follow emergency measures that were taken in the wake of the July 6, 2013, incident in Lac-Megantic, when an unattended 74-car train carrying crude oil rolled down a hill, derailed and exploded. Forty-seven people died. Although the Canadian government determined there were nearly 20 causes of the accident, a major cause was that the train's engineer did not properly secure the train.

Transport Canada officials said yesterday that revisions were made to Rule 112 of the Canadian Railway Operating Rules, "establishing multiple layers of defense to secure trains" and reduce the risk of runaway trains.

"The new rules provide industry with a comprehensive handbrake application chart to respond to various operating situations, which once applied, must be confirmed by another employee with the appropriate level of knowledge," Transport Canada officials said in their statement. "Railway equipment must be secured by additional physical measures listed in the rules."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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