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USDOT should implement new tank-car safety measures, RSI committee says

The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSICTC) is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to consider several new safety measures for tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol.

Committee members recently sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx proposing that the department impose additional safety requirements on newly manufactured tank cars, prohibit the placement of additional legacy tank cars into crude oil and ethanol service, and prioritize modifications to existing "legacy" cars.

"The discovery of new sources of crude oil in North America is one of the most important developments for our economy in the last few decades. Addressing a 4,000 percent increase in delivery of those resources by rail and protecting the public requires actions by railroads, shippers, tank car manufacturers and the federal government," said Railway Supply Institute President Thomas Simpson in a press release. "We clearly laid out how tank cars can be made safer as quickly as possible. Now it's up to the federal government to complete its rulemaking and issue new standards."

In 2011, manufacturers began voluntarily building tank cars to a new standard jointly developed with railroads and petitioned the USDOT to issue a new regulatory standard. RSICTC proposes an expansion of the safety standard and the implementation of seven guiding principles that could help advance crude oil and ethanol tank-car safety.

The measures include the requirement of a metal jacket, full-height head shield and top fittings protection with added thermal protection for all new crude oil and ethanol tank cars to prevent punctures and resist heat after a derailment; prohibition of adding legacy tank cars to existing crude or ethanol fleets until the USDOT issues standards to modify the cars; and stipulation of modifications to legacy cars to shorten the timeframe for addressing the highest safety risks. RSICTC has estimated it will take 10 years to modify existing cars because USDOT regulations require that other work be performed.
"These guiding principles will accelerate tank-car safety," said Simpson. "The absence of a science-based, government-mandated standard is chilling investment, hindering job creation and slowing down the rollout of new, stronger cars that can potentially save lives and limit damage after train accidents occur."

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More News from 2/13/2014