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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

New tank car standards needed now, Canada's Transportation Safety Board says


The Canadian government needs to roll out stricter tank car standards faster than previously proposed, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) announced yesterday in an update on its investigation into the March 7 derailment of a CN crude-oil train near Gogama, Ontario.

The derailment, which caused a massive fire and spilled oil into a nearby waterway, involved Class 111 tank cars built over the past three years that were in compliance with the industry's CPC-1232 standard. The newer cars featured safety improvements over older 111s.

TSB's preliminary findings revealed that some of the derailed tank cars sustained significant damage in the incident, and released oil that fueled the large fire. At least five of the cars showed thermal tears from exposure to the fire, TSB officials said.

The performance of the cars in the Gogama derailment indicate the need for Transport Canada (TC) to speed up its implementation timeline for a new series of tank car known as the TC-117, said the TSB report.

"Initial impressions are that these Class 111 tank cars performed similar to those involved in the Lac-Megantic accident," the report states.

Last week, TC officials announced its new standard would require all new tank cars used for transporting flammable liquids to be built with thicker and more impact-resistant steel, jacketed thermal protection, full-height head shield, top fittings protection and improved bottom outlet valves.

The older cars would be phased out of use, but the agency did not give a final deadline on when the new cars built with the the higher standards would begin carrying flammable liquids.

"While the proposed standards look promising, the TSB has concerns about the implementation timeline, given initial observations of the performance of CPC-1232 cars in recent derailments," the TSB report states. "If older tank cars, including the CPC-1232 cars, are not phased out sooner, then the regulator and industry need to take more steps to reduce the risk of derailments or consequences following a derailment carrying flammable liquids."

TSB Chair Kathy Fox added: "Canadians expect their government to ensure that the risks posed by the transportation of flammable liquids are minimized to the greatest extent possible. I am reiterating my concern expressed in letters I sent to both the Minister of Transport and the acting administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in the United States in October 2014, in which I urged TC and its U.S. counterparts to adopt the highest possible standards for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, and replace or retrofit existing tank cars as soon as practicable so that they meet new standards."

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