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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA proposes rulemaking to prevent unintended train movements

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that aims to prevent unintended train movements by strengthening requirements for securing unattended trains.
The proposed rule codifies many of the requirements included in an emergency order the FRA issued in August 2013 following the tragic Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, accident and tightens existing regulations for rail cars containing certain hazardous materials, FRA officials said in a press release. The rule covers equipment containing poisonous-by-inhalation materials and certain flammable or combustible liquids, explosive materials and hazardous substances, including most crude oil moved in the United States.

The new measures proposed in the NPRM would require railroads to:
• prevent trains or vehicles transporting specified hazardous materials from being left unattended on a mainline or side track outside a yard, unless specific securement requirements are followed;
• develop a plan identifying such locations or circumstances;
• verify securement by qualified personnel;
• ensure that locomotive cab locks are secure;
• include securement requirements in job briefings;
• perform additional inspections by qualified personnel after emergency responders have manned equipment; and
• install locking mechanisms on locomotive doors and repair them in a timely manner.

"While our existing securement regulations have been largely successful, it's important in light of events over the past year that we take additional steps to mitigate risk here in the United States,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo. "This rulemaking will solidify our existing securement regulations and provide additional safeguards against the rolling of unattended freight trains, especially those carrying hazardous materials."

The NPRM is the result of collaborative effort between the rail industry and other stakeholders who formed a working group to review securement rules, practices and operating procedures over the past year, FRA officials said. The working group, which was convened through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee in August 2013, submitted its final proposed rule recommendations to the FRA in April.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, FRA and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have taken more than two dozen actions as part of a comprehensive approach to ensure that the safe transport of hazardous materials by rail is preserved and enhanced, FRA officials said. Over the past year, they have issued emergency orders and safety advisories, conducted special inspections, and brought together railroads and oil industry constituents to reach an agreement on a series of immediate actions to improve safety, including reducing speeds, increasing inspections, employing new brake technology, developing improved sampling and testing plans, and investing in first responder training.

In addition, they have issued a NPRM for a comprehensive rulemaking package regarding the safe transportation of crude oil and plan to announce a proposed rule to address train-crew size, FRA officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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