US railroad industry taking extra precautions with shipments of hazardous materials above and beyond US regulatory requirements in light of accident in Quebec and increases in crude oil, ethanol traffic, says AAR

WASHINGTON , October 23, 2013 (press release) – Measures Include Self-Imposed Hazmat Safety Operating Practices

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has shared with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) the many efforts being made every day by freight railroads to ensure the safe and secure movement of hazardous materials and other commodities by rail. Whether as part of federal regulatory requirements, or self-prescribed industry best practices, freight railroads are doing all they can to ensure that 99.997 percent of all hazardous materials moving by rail continues to reach its destination without a release caused by an accident.

“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 CEO Edward R. Hamberger.

Among the steps outlined for FRA, AAR noted that freight railroads have been implementing augmented train attendance, inspection and securement operating practices set forth in the Aug. 2, 2013, Emergency Order No. 28.

In addition, freight railroads for decades have adhered to a set of self-imposed operating practices for the safe movement and handling of certain hazardous materials which often have exceeded federal government regulations. These have included speed restrictions, hazmat train storage guidelines as well as the use of special way-side detectors on key routes with actions taken when the detector finds a potential problem.

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 hazmat transport precautions are instituted. Now, trains with a single tank car load of certain hazardous materials, such as toxic-by-inhalation or TIH, or 20 carloads of other hazardous materials, such as crude or ethanol, are now subject to these long-held safety best operating practices.

“Railroads have a strong record for safely moving hazardous materials of all kinds, and in many cases railroads have already been taking these extra safety transport steps for moving crude and ethanol,” Hamberger said.

The AAR is also actively engaged with the FRA, as well as the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to examine if any additional safety steps or precautions for the movement of hazardous materials are warranted moving forward. This includes an examination of operating rules as well as the federal design standards for tank cars.

In March 2011, AAR on behalf of the industry’s tank car committee, petitioned PHMSA seeking higher design standards for the DOT-111 tank car, commonly used to move hazmat such as crude and ethanol. While a PHMSA advanced rulemaking addressing these standards is currently underway, all DOT-111s built to carry crude and ethanol have since October 2011 been built to the higher industry standards.

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