Ministry issues emergency safety directive regarding potentially faulty train wheels

by Canadian Shipper

OTTAWA, Ont. — The Ministry of Transport has issued an emergency safety directive to Canadian National (CN) to identify and remove from use any potentially faulty train wheels from Canadian service as quickly as possible and by no later than Oct. 15.

The suspect wheel sets were assembled at CN’s Transcona wheel shop between April 1, 1998, and Feb. 28, 2001. The deadline provides CN with the time required to track all the wheels on train cars throughout Canada, said officials in a release.

“The safety and security of Canadians is our number one priority, and our government is acting to make our railways as safe as possible,” said the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. “By issuing this emergency directive, I want to ensure every possible measure is taken to prevent potential derailments related to faulty wheels.”

The emergency directive, which was issued under the Railway Safety Act, also requires CN to provide Transport Canada with a monthly update on removal of the wheel sets; to notify the department of all incidents of suspected systemic failures of major components; and to put in place a system to record and track major components, wheels, axles, roller bearings, draft gears and couplers throughout their service life by Dec. 13.

The directive was issued in response to a railway investigation report released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) on June 5. The report identified loose wheels as the cause of a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) freight train derailment near Buckskin, Ont., on Jan. 31, 2006.

“Our government is taking decisive action to improve rail safety in Canada,” said Minister Cannon. “We continue to take significant enforcement actions to help address derailments and other safety issues by issuing notices and orders, increasing physical inspections and performing audits of railway safety management practices.”

The faulty wheels identified in the TSB report were mounted on a CP car by CN’s Transcona wheel shop in Winnipeg, Man. The wheels had been assembled using a modified boring process that caused the wheel to loosen when the rail car was negotiating a curve.

CN and the Association of American Railroads initiated a recall of the potentially defective wheel sets in 2001. However, due to shortfalls in the recall process, the industry as a whole was not able to target all suspect wheel sets for removal until July 2006. The TSB estimates 10,000 to 12,000 of the potentially faulty wheel sets may remain in service in North America.

The TSB report included two recommendations: first, that Transport Canada ensure all 36-inch CN Transcona wheel sets assembled between April 1998 and February 2001 are removed from cars operating in Canada; and second, that Transport Canada ensure railways adopt procedures and technologies to track all wheel sets.

In accordance with the Canadian Transportation Accident and Investigation Safety Board Act, Transport Canada will provide a more detailed response to the recommendations within 90 days.

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