Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled revamped safety rules developed in coordination with Canadian officials on Monday for the transportation of crude by rail.

The new rules call for thicker shells on both new and existing tank cars, enhanced braking systems, operating speed cuts, more routing analysis and more accurate classifications of unrefined petroleum products.

Under the new guidelines high hazard flammable trains (HHFT) saw their travel speed cut to 50 mph while tanker cars that fail to meet new safety standards will have their speeds restricted to 40 mph in urban areas.

New tanker cars must be built with a 9/16 inch shell and top-fitting protection while existing trains must have a 7/16 inch shell without top fittings.

High-hazard flammable unit trains with at least one tank car with Packing Group I materials must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by January 1, 2021 while all other HHFUTs must have ECP braking systems installed after 2023

Enhanced tank specification. Image courtesy of the Department of Transportation.

Railroads operating HHFTs must also perform routing analyses that consider at least 27 safety and security factors and provide a point of contact for state, local and tribal officials to handle information related to the routing of hazardous materials.

“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rules, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

The DOT has also asked offerors to develop and carry out sampling and testing on all unrefined petroleum-based products to ensure materials are accurately packaged.

“Through strong collaboration we have developed a harmonized solution for North America’s tank car fleet. I am hopeful that this kind of cooperation will be a model for future Canada-U.S. partnership on transportation issues,” Canada’s Minster of Transport Lisa Raitt said.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, welcomed the collaboration between Canadian and U.S. officials but said further study must be done to ensure the new rules add “to the overall safety of the North American freight rail network.”


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