Category Archives: Tank car retirement

Canada phasing out DOT-111 rail tank cars ahead of schedule

Repost from Hazmat Magazine

Canada phasing out potentially dangerous rail tank cars ahead of schedule

By J Nicholson, August 19, 2016

The Canadian federal government will retire the older DOT-111 rail tanker cars — the ones involved in the deadly Lac-Mégantic tragedy — several months earlier than planned. “Protective Direction 38” stipulates that the DOT-111 tanker cars will no longer be permitted to transport crude oil or other dangerous goods on Canadian railways as of November 1st 2016. The original phase out plan called for the tanker cars to be phased out by May of 2017.

An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)
An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)

The DOT 111 rail tanker cars do not have a layer of thermal protection. Experts speculate that the Lac-Mégantic rail derailment would not have been as disastrous if the runaway freight train did not have DOT 111 tanker cars. On July 6th 2013, a runaway freight train pulling 72 tanker cars of crude oil exploded in the downtown area of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people.

The new standard tanker rail car is the TC-117. It has a thicker steel hull, thermal protection, a full head shield, protective valve covers and a bottom outlet valve for safety. Rail experts say the TC-117 is much more able to resist puncture than the DOT 111.

DOT 111 will still be able to be used by rail companies; however they are not permitted to be used for the transport of dangerous materials such as crude oil.

There are skeptics to the phase out rules on the old rail cars. Mike Benson , the Fire Chief for the northern Ontario community of Gogama, told the Timminspress.com that he is skeptical that the redesign of rail cars, on their own, will ensure safety in his community.

“It’s a good step but a very small step. But the problem isn’t so much the makeup of the cars as it is the maintenance and inspection of the track,” said the fire chief. “All the difference with the new cars is another quarter-inch of steel on either end of the car. These things contain 100,000 litres weighing a million pounds, so it’s not going to change anything if there’s a derailment.”

A more effective policy, said Benson, would be taking steps to prevent similar derailments from happening in the future. That would mean significantly increasing the amount of track maintenance and inspection and decreasing the speed limit for trains in rural areas.

“The companies don’t want to slow their trains down … but with four derailments in three years, I’d say there’s a bit of a problem there,” said Benson.

The Railway Association of Canada is in favour of the move made by the federal government to phase out the tanker cars. Michael Bourque, a spokesperson for the Association stated, “Removing this tank car model from service sooner is an effective step toward ensuring the safe transportation of dangerous goods in Canada. We welcomed harmonized Canada-U.S. tank car standards introduced last year, and we’re equally pleased with the announcement.”

The use of rail cars to transport oil has soared in Canada over the past few years. In 2015, there were 146,000 shipments of crude oil across Canada.

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    CANADA: DOT-111 tank cars can’t transport crude oil as of Nov. 1

    Repost from Sudbury.com

    Garneau confirms DOT-111 cars will not be able to transport crude oil as of November 1

    By Canadian Press, Jul 26, 2016 8:26 AM
    pmc101352009
    Candian Transport Minister Marc Garneau

    MONTREAL — Canada will put a stop to the transport of crude oil by older and less crash-resistant tanker rail cars earlier than scheduled, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Monday, however, the timeline for ending similar transportation of all other flammable liquids remains the same.

    As of Nov. 1, crude oil in Canada will no longer be transported in DOT-111 tankers — the same kind of rail car that was involved in the Lac-Megantic tragedy in which 47 people died three years ago.

    The DOT-111 cars without thermal layers of protection were scheduled to be phased out for the use of crude oil by the previous Conservative government by May 2017.

    DOT-111s with thermal protection were to be taken off for oil transport by March 2018.

    The new directives are for crude oil only, Garneau said, adding the phase-out deadline for DOT-111s carrying other flammable liquids is 2025.

    Garneau said while he was able to accelerate the phase-out of DOT-111s for crude, the government needs to be “realistic” about other materials.

    “The reality is that in this country we transport a huge amount by rail — hundreds of billions of dollars worth a year — and you can’t do everything in one shot,” he told a news conference.

    “Here we have the opportunity to do something very concrete on the crude oil side — which is extremely important — and I am very proud of it.”

    The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in its report on the Lac-Megantic crash that until older and less crash-resistant tanker cars “are no longer used to transport flammable liquids and a more robust tank car standard with enhanced protection is set for North America, the risk will remain.”

    Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre saluted Garneau’s announcement, saying “when we talk about (rail) safety we have to show it, we have to walk the talk.”

    Vicki Balance with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the oil industry knew the Liberals were considering making changes but didn’t know what they were going to be.

    “(The announcement) brings some certainty and predictability for us, which is positive,” she said.

    On July 6, 2013, a runaway freight train pulling 72 crude-oil laden DOT-111s derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying part of downtown Lac-Megantic.

    In response, the U.S. and Canada created a series of new regulations to make rail transport of hazardous materials safer.

    Former Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and her U.S. counterpart Anthony Foxx in May 2015 announced new regulations for tanker cars made after Oct. 1 of that year, for transporting liquid dangerous goods across the continent.

    The new cars, known as TC-177s in Canada, are made of thicker steel than the DOT-111s and have other added safety measures.

    Raitt and Fox also announced that all DOT-111s would have to retrofitted or phased out for the use of crude oil by 2018 and all other rail cars transporting any dangerous, flammable liquid would have to meet new safety requirements by 2025.

    Garneau said Monday the new rules will only apply to Canada.

    He said no DOT-111 train originating from the U.S. and carrying crude oil will be able to cross into Canada after Nov. 1, and violators will face financial penalties, but he didn’t say how much they would be.

    Garneau said there are about 30,000 DOT-111s without a thermal layer transporting crude oil on railways in North America. He didn’t have a precise number for the cars with the protective layer.

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      Canada bans DOT-111 tank cars as of Nov. 1

      Repost from the Washington Post

      Canada to ban rail cars involved in fiery crash

      By Associated Press July 25, 2016

      MONTREAL — Canada’s transport minister says the rail car model involved in a fiery crash that killed 47 people in Quebec three years ago will no longer be allowed to transport oil in Canada as of Nov. 1.

      Marc Garneau said Monday that older tankers, called DOT-111 cars, and a version jacketed with an extra layer of metal to make it stronger will be taken out of service by Nov. 1, 2016.

      Garneau says the new directives are for crude oil only.

      A runaway freight train pulling 72 crude-oil laden DOT-111s derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013, killing 47 people and flattening downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

      Garneau said tankers carrying crude originating from the U.S. that are not up to code will be prohibited from crossing the border.

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        NY TIMES / AP: Slow Progress Seen on Faulty Rail Cars

        Repost from the New York Times (AP)

        Upgrades to Unsafe Tank Cars Could Take 15 Years, Board Says

        By Matthew Brown, Associated Press, July 13, 2016, 2:30 A.M. E.D.T.
        Oil Train Accidents
        FILE–In this June 3, 2016, file frame from video provided by KGW-TV, smoke billows from a Union Pacific train that derailed near Mosier, Ore., in the scenic Columbia River Gorge. U.S. safety officials say they’ve seen slow progress in efforts to upgrade or replace tens of thousands of rupture-prone rail cars used to transport oil and ethanol, despite a string of fiery derailments. (KGW-TV via AP, file)

        BILLINGS, Mont. — Accident-prone tank cars used to haul crude oil and ethanol by rail could remain in service for another 15 years under federal rules that allow companies to phase in upgrades to the aging fleet, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

        Transportation officials and railroad representatives have touted the rules as a key piece of their efforts to stave off future disasters, following a string of fiery derailments and major spills that raised concerns about the crude-by-rail industry.

        Yet without mandatory, periodic benchmarks for meeting the requirements, the decision to upgrade to safer tank car designs “is left entirely to tank car fleet owners, and may be driven by market factor influences, not safety improvements,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

        Tom Simpson with the Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank car manufacturers and owners, said the industry is committed to putting stronger cars in place. Members of the group will meet deadlines for replacing or upgrading the cars, he said, noting that demand for rail cars has eased after crude-by-rail shipments decreased over the past two years in response to lower oil prices.

        “The need to modify or install new cars isn’t as urgent as when the rule was issued,” Simpson said.

        In recent years, accidents involving the older cars have occurred in Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, Illinois, West Virginia and Canada.

        The most notable was in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed when a runaway oil train derailed in 2013. During the most recent accident last month in Oregon, 42,000 gallons of crude oil spilled, sparking a massive fire that burned for 14 hours near the small town of Mosier in the Columbia River Gorge.

        Cars built before the rule was enacted do not have to be fully replaced until 2029, although most would have to come off the tracks sooner.

        Just over 10,300 stronger tank cars mandated by the new rules are available for service, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press from the Association of American Railroads.

        That’s equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the 51,500 tank cars used to haul crude and ethanol during the first quarter of 2016.

        Transportation Department Press Secretary Clark Pettig said in response to the NTSB’s criticism that the schedule to retrofit older cars was locked in by Congress in a transportation bill approved last year. The Congressional deadline represents “the absolute last moment” to meet the new standards, Pettig said.

        “We agree with NTSB that industry should work to beat those deadlines,” he said.

        A Wednesday meeting was planned in Washington, D.C., where government and industry officials were set to update the safety board on progress addressing the issue.

        Safety board member Robert Sumwalt told the Associated Press that federal regulators need to set milestones to hold the industry accountable.

        “There’s been 28 accidents over the past 10 years. That’s almost three accidents a year,” Sumwalt said. “Unfortunately, history shows we probably will have more accidents involving flammable liquids.”

        A bill from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and other Democratic lawmakers would offer tax credits for companies that upgrade their cars during the next several years.

        “Communities near train tracks, like Mosier, Oregon, must be confident that companies are using the safest tank cars possible,” Wyden said.

        The railroad association said only 700 of the least resilient model of the older-style tank cars remain in service. Most of the cars in current use have at least some improvements, such as shields at either end of the car to help prevent punctures during derailments.

        Transportation officials cautioned, however, that thousands of idled “legacy cars” could quickly come back online if oil prices rise and shipment volumes rebound.

        Most tank cars are owned or leased by companies that ship fuel by rail, not the railroads themselves.

        “Every tank car carrying crude or ethanol needs to be upgraded or replaced,” said railroad association spokesman Ed Greenberg.

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