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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Rail shippers petition USDOT over tank-car safety regs


A coalition of shippers late last week petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to adopt rules that would reinforce its authority to set uniform national tank car standards.

If adopted, the petition would prevent the Association of American Railroads (AAR) or other parties from imposing industry-wide requirements that are different from federal regulations, officials said in a press release from the shippers.

Signing the petition were the American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, The Fertilizer Institute, The Chlorine Institute, The Sulphur Institute, U.S. Clay Producers Traffic Association, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, National Association of Chemical Distributors and National Industrial Transportation League.

The petition is in response to efforts by the AAR — through its majority control of the Tank Car Committee (TCC) — to try to impost tank car requirements that are different from federal regulations. In some cases, the AAR-recommended requirements have been considered and rejected by USDOT, the press release stated.

"Our petition simply requests that DOT adopt clear rules that ensure that the responsibility for establishing tank car specifications remains in the hands of federal regulators," shipper coalition officials said in the release.

The shipper group added the following statement:

"The TCC was created to develop consensus on tank car standards and advise regulators for tank car specifications that meet DOT regulations. Allowing the TCC to set requirements outside of the federal rulemaking process would set a chilling and damaging precedent that would greatly diminish the [USDOT's] authority to regulate safety. Tank car standards must be developed with the due process protection, public interest considerations and support of science-based standards required for DOT safety rules."

The AAR is reviewing the shipper group's petition, said AAR spokesman Ed Greenberg in an email. But for decades, the Tank Car Committee has "worked closely with shippers and other representatives to make tank car transportation in this country even safer," he said.

The USDOT's standards represent the minimum safety level as required by law, Greenberg added.

"The overarching mission of the Tank Car Committee has always been to make tank cars even safer by working together with key stakeholders," he said. "The fact is, through this shared responsibility, there have been dramatic improvements in rail safety in our country over the past several decades."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/15/2016