Transportation Safety Board of Canada, US National Transportation Safety Board issue recommendations to improve safe transportation of crude oil by rail, including tougher standards for Class 111 tank cars, route planning, emergency response plans

OTTAWA , January 23, 2014 (press release) – In an unprecedented move, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today issued strong recommendations to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail. The greater risk of shipping increasingly more crude oil by rail across North America demands coordinated solutions.

“In the course of our Lac-Mégantic investigation, we found three critical weaknesses in the North American rail system which must be urgently addressed,” said Wendy Tadros, Chair of the TSB. “Today we are making three recommendations calling for tougher standards for Class 111 tank cars; route planning and analysis, and emergency response assistance plans.”

The TSB recommendations are addressed to Transport Canada, and in the case of tank cars, also to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The Board’s first recommendation calls for tougher standards for all Class 111 tank cars—not just new ones. In Lac-Mégantic, the Board found that even at lower speeds, the older unprotected Class 111 tank cars ruptured, releasing crude oil which fuelled the fire.

The second recommendation calls for strategic route-planning, and safer train operations for all trains carrying dangerous goods in Canada. The TSB wants railways to carefully choose the routes on which oil and other dangerous goods are to be carried, and to make sure train operations over those routes will be safe.

For the third recommendation, the TSB would like to see emergency response assistance plans (ERAPs) along routes where large volumes of liquid hydrocarbons are being shipped. The right resources must be in place to reduce the severity and impact of a spill or fire.

The amount of crude oil now being shipped by rail in North America is staggering. According to the rail industry, in Canada in 2009, there were only 500 carloads of crude oil shipped by rail; in 2013, there were 160,000 carloads. In the U.S. in 2009, there were 10,800 carloads; and in 2013, there were 400,000 carloads. And because North America’s railways are interconnected, the NTSB’s recommendations complement those issued by the TSB.

“If North American railways are to carry more and more of these flammable liquids through our communities, it must be done safely,” added Tadros. “Change must come and it must come now.”

The ongoing Lac-Mégantic investigation remains a top priority for the TSB. It is committed to releasing urgent safety information when required.

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