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AAR to FRA: Freight railroads are taking steps to improve haz-mat safety


The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has shared U.S. freight railroads' hazardous materials safety and security efforts with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), AAR officials announced yesterday.

Whether as part of federal regulations or self-prescribed industry best practices, freight railroads are doing all they can to ensure that 99.997 percent of hazardous materials moved by rail continue to reach their destination without an accident-caused release, AAR officials said in a press release.

"Freight railroads are always looking for ways to make this nation's rail network safer for our communities, our employees and our environment," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger.

Among the measures outlined for the FRA, the AAR noted that freight railroads have been implementing augmented train attendance, inspection and securement operating practices set forth in an Aug. 2 emergency order.

In addition, freight roads for decades have adhered to a set of self-imposed operating practices for handling haz-mat that often have exceeded federal regulations, including speed restrictions, haz-mat train storage guidelines and the use of special wayside detectors on key routes, AAR officials said.

"In light of the tragic accident in Quebec, as well as recent increases in crude oil and ethanol traffic, the industry decided it was the appropriate time to include hazardous materials such as crude and ethanol as further haz-mat transport precautions are instituted," they said.

The AAR also is actively engaged with the FRA and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to determine if any additional safety steps or precautions for haz-mat moves are warranted, such as an examination of operating rules and federal design standards for tank cars, AAR officials said. While an advanced rulemaking addressing tank-car standards is under way at PHMSA, all "DOT-111" tank cars built to carry crude and ethanol have been built to higher industry standards since October 2011, they said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/22/2013