Media Kit » Try RailPrime™ Today! »
Progressive Railroading
Newsletter Sign Up
Stay updated on news, articles and information for the rail industry

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

View Current Digital Issue »


Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends


Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Tank-car design a focus of House subcommittee hearing on rail haz-mat safety


Congress needs to provide the rail industry liability limits or eliminate the government mandate that railroads carry highly hazardous materials. That was the message U.S. railroads delivered to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Railroad Subcommittee yesterday during a hearing on rail haz-mat safety.

“If railroad risks are not reduced, Congress should relieve railroads of the government mandate to carry TIH (toxic inhalation hazards) and other highly hazardous substances,” said Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger during his testimony. “Railroads should be permitted to decide for themselves whether to accept, and at what price they are willing to accept, such materials for transportation.”

In addition, the design and performance of tank cars that carry TIH needs to be improved, he said.

“The AAR’s Tank Car Committee … is evaluating a new standard for chlorine and anhydrous ammonia tank cars that would reduce the risk of a rupture by more than 50 percent,” said Hamberger. “The committee also is examining whether the phase-out of tank cars constructed of non-normalized steel should be accelerated.”

Although the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has ordered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tank car improvements, the primary strategy to prevent haz-mat releases is accident prevention, said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman.

Added Robert Chipkevich, director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations: “Because of the time it will take to design and construct improved tank cars, the board believes that the most expedient and effective means to reduce the public risk from the release of highly poisonous gases in train accidents is for railroads to implement operational measures that will minimize the vulnerability of tank cars transporting these products.”

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) believes haz-mat transportation safety is the result of many interrelated factors, including the safety of rail operations, track conditions, tank car placement, train crew training, supervision and staffing, and tank car construction.

“Hazardous materials safety is a holistic process,” said ACC Managing Director of Federal Affairs Marty Durbin. “We are concerned that [our] partnership is being compromised by our rail partners and we believe their proposals are driving us down the wrong track regarding hazardous materials transportation safety.”

The ACC is concerned about a “rush to judgment” on tank car design changes by the AAR’s Tank Car Committee and efforts to alter the basic liability rules that govern haz-mat transportation, he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/14/2006