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Rail News: Safety

Oregon DOT strengthens rail safety measures, adds four rail inspectors


The Oregon Transportation Commission has approved updated rules developed to improve rail incident prevention measures and emergency response to derailments involving hazardous materials, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced yesterday.

Combined with ODOT's addition of four rail inspectors, the rules aim to improve the state's efforts to prevent rail incidents, but also respond to them if they do occur, department officials said in a press release.

The rules will help ensure that first responders have access to information about materials being transported by rail through their communities, and that agencies that need such information for planning will have it as well, said ODOT Director Matthew Garrett said.

The rules, which will be posted on the Oregon Secretary of State's website, require:
• railroads to immediately notify emergency responders when incidents involving hazardous materials occur. The information must cover the type, quantity and placement of such materials on the train.
• railroads to file quarterly reports with ODOT that detail shipments of hazardous materials. ODOT, in turn, will share those reports with emergency responders. The rules specific that the information is to be released under the state’s public records law, but allow some exemption for trade secrets.
• ODOT to assess penalties up to $1,000 each day if railroads don't comply with the rules.

The addition of four staff members will bring the total number of railroad inspectors to 11. When the new hires are certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), ODOT will have two inspectors in four of the five FRA disciplines: operating practices, hazardous materials, signal and train control, and motive power and equipment.  ODOT will have three inspectors in the fifth discipline, which is track.

"We increased staffing in part because of national concerns about the increase in crude-by-rail shipments," said Garrett. "With our new staff members, we will have specific discipline-trained inspectors on duty to cover the state even if an inspector is out sick or on vacation."

The department's Rail Division determined it should bring the track inspector total to three because statistics indicate that track-related defects are the most common cause of derailments, ODOT officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/28/2015