Rail tank car industry calls for additional safety measures

by MM&D Online staff

WASHINGTON, DC—The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSICTC) has called on the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider several new safety measures for tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol.

In a letter to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, RSICTC proposed additional safety requirements on newly manufactured railway tank cars, a prohibition on placing additional legacy tank cars into crude oil and ethanol service and prioritization of the modification of existing legacy crude oil and ethanol tank cars. The call comes after three years of waiting for the government to issue new rules that would create an industry standard and help mitigate product loss after train derailments.

“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,” said Thomas Simpson, president of RSI. “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. Today 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 rule-making and issue new standards for the manufacture and modification of tank cars meant to carry crude oil or ethanol.”

In 2011, manufacturers began voluntarily building tank cars to a new standard (CPC-1232) jointly developed with the railroads and petitioned DOT to issue a new regulatory standard. Despite DOT’s inaction on this petition, today’s announcement would expand this safety standard and proposes seven guiding principles to move crude oil and ethanol tank car safety forward, including:

Additional Safety Technology. The RSICTC proposed expanding the CPC-1232 standard by requiring a metal jacket, full height head shield and top fittings protection with added thermal protection for the manufacture of all new crude oil and ethanol tank cars. These additions will make the cars more resistant to punctures and heat in case of a derailment.

Limits on Legacy Cars. The industry also called for a prohibition on adding additional legacy (i.e. non-CPC-1232 compliant) tank cars to the existing crude oil or ethanol fleets until DOT issues standards to modify legacy tank cars.

Modify Crude Oil & Ethanol Cars First. RSI’s tank car committee has estimated it will take 10 years to modify existing legacy tank cars because DOT regulations require other work as well. If DOT allows the modification of crude oil and ethanol tank cars first, the time frame for addressing the highest risks could be shortened significantly.

“These guiding principles will accelerate tank car safety,” continued Simpson. “Adding new technology, prohibiting additional unmodified tank cars from entering into crude oil and ethanol service, and modifying crude oil and ethanol tank cars first will move safety forward. Additionally, the DOT needs to issue revised tank car standards. These standards should consider the work already done by engineers in the industry to improve tank car safety. 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.”

The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) is the international trade association for the rail supply industry, representing the nation’s leading companies involved in the manufacture of products and services in the freight car, tank car, locomotive, maintenance-of-way, communications and signaling, and passenger rail industries.