Tag Archives: Train inspection

In case you missed it last week: Fed emergency order, advisories & notices on safety of hazmat trains

Repost from NBC12 Richmond, VA
[Editor: You would NOT BELIEVE the NUMBER of news stories on the Friday 4/17 release of federal orders by the DOT, FRA and PHMSA.  I won’t post a long list here – for a sample, just Google “oil train speed” and look through the 9,800 hits when you limit results to NEWS in the last week!  Better: just read the summary below.  For a good critique, see Law360.com’s “Enviro Groups Call DOT’s Oil Train Speed Limit ‘Toothless'”.   – RS]

Agencies coordinate actions to increase safe transportation of energy products

By Mike McDaniel, Updated: Apr 20, 2015 6:37 AM PDT

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announces with its agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a package of targeted actions that will address some of the issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail.  The volume of crude oil being shipped by rail has increased exponentially in recent years, and the number of significant accidents involving trains carrying ethanol or crude oil is unprecedented.

“The boom in crude oil production, and transportation of that crude, poses a serious threat to public safety,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The measures we are announcing today are a result of lessons learned from recent accidents and are steps we are able to take today to improve safety. Our efforts in partnership with agencies throughout this Administration show that this is more than a transportation issue, and we are not done yet.”

These actions represent the latest in a series of more than two dozen that DOT has initiated over the last nineteen months to address the significant threat to public safety that accidents involving trains carrying highly flammable liquids can represent. Today’s announcement includes one Emergency Order, two Safety Advisories, and notices to industry intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.


  1. Preliminary investigation of one recent derailment indicates that a mechanical defect involving a broken tank car wheel may have caused or contributed to the incident.  The Federal Railroad Administration is therefore recommending that only the highest skilled inspectors conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids, and that industry decrease the threshold for wayside detectors that measure wheel impacts, to ensure the wheel integrity of tank cars in those trains.
  2. Recent accidents revealed that certain critical information about the train and its cargo needs to be immediately available for use by emergency responders or federal investigators who arrive on scene shortly after an incident.   To address the information gap, DOT is taking several actions to remind both the oil industry and the rail industry of their obligation to provide these critical details
  • PHMSA is issuing a safety advisory reminding carriers and shippers of the specific types of information (*listed below) that they must make immediately available to emergency responders;
  • FRA and PHMSA are issuing a joint safety advisory requesting that specific information (*listed below) also be made readily available to investigators;
  • FRA is sending a request to the Association of American Railroads asking the industry to develop a formal process by which this specific information (*listed below) becomes available to both emergency responders and investigators within 90 minutes of initial contact with an investigator, and;
  • FRA submitted to the Federal Register a notice proposing to expand the information collected on certain required accident reports, so that information specific to accidents involving trains transporting crude oil is reported.
  1. DOT has determined that public safety compels issuance of an Emergency Order to require that trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas adhere to a maximum authorized operating speed limit of 40 miles per hour in High Threat Urban Areas. Under the EO, an affected train is one that contains: 1) 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block, or 35 or more loaded tank cars, of Class 3 flammable liquid; and, 2) at least one DOT Specification 111 (DOT-111) tank car (including those built in accordance with Association of American Railroads (AAR) Casualty Prevention Circular 1232 (CPC-1232)) loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid.

“These are important, common-sense steps that will protect railroad employees and residents of communities along rail lines.  Taking the opportunity to review safety steps and to refresh information before moving forward is a standard safety practice in many industries and we expect the shipping and carrier industries to do the same,” said Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

“Our first priority is to prevent these accidents from ever happening,” stated Acting PHMSA Administrator Tim Butters.  “But when accidents do occur, first responders need to have the right information quickly, so we are reminding carriers and shippers of their responsibility to have the required information readily available and up to date.”

The actions taken today coincide with actions being taken by other government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE).

*Information required by PHMSA Safety Advisory

  • Basic description and technical name of the hazardous material  the immediate hazard to health;
  • Risks of fire or explosion;
  • Immediate precautions to be taken in the event of an accident;
  • Immediate methods for handling fires;
  • Initial methods for handling spills or leaks in the absence of fire;
  • Preliminary first aid measures; and
  • 24-hour telephone number for immediate access to product information.

*Information sought by U.S. DOT in the event of a crude-by-rail accident:

  • Information on the train consist, including the train number, locomotive(s), locomotives as distributed power, end-of-train device information, number and position of tank cars in the train, tank car reporting marks, and the tank car specifications and relevant attributes of the tank cars in the train.
  • Waybill (origin and destination) information
  • The Safety Data Sheet(s) or any other documents used to provide comprehensive emergency response and incident mitigation information for Class 3 flammable liquids
  • Results of any product testing undertaken prior to transportation that was used to properly characterize the Class 3 flammable liquids for transportation (initial testing)
  • Results from any analysis of product sample(s) (taken prior to being offered into transportation) from tank car(s) involved in the derailment
  • Date of acceptance as required to be noted on shipping papers under 49 CFR § 174.24.
  • If a refined flammable liquid is involved, the type of liquid and the name and location of the company extracting the material
  • The identification of the company having initial testing performed (sampling and analysis of material) and information on the lab (if external) conducting the analysis.
  • Name and location of the company transporting the material from well head to loading facility or terminal.
  • Name and location of the company that owns and that operates the terminal or loading facility that loaded the product for rail transportation.
  • Name of the Railroad(s) handling the tank car(s) at any time from point of origin to destination and a timeline of handling changes between railroads.

Since 2013 there have been 23 crude-related train accidents in the United States with the majority of incidents occurring without the release of any crude oil product.  The actions taken today can be found at the following link:

All documents are available at:http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat/osd/chronology.

Feds tighten safeguards for oil trains, Illinois officials want more

Repost from The Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago

Feds tighten safeguards for oil trains, advocates want more

By Marni Pyke, 4/17/2015 5:38 PM
Federal regulators are tightening some rules on transport of flammable liquids in tank cars.
Federal regulators are tightening some rules on transport of flammable liquids in tank cars. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, December 2014

Federal regulators’ tweaks to rules for trains carrying flammable liquids released Friday didn’t impress local officials who are concerned about explosive fires.

“I’m fairly underwhelmed,” Barrington Mayor Karen Darch said regarding the recommendations by the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The two agencies did act on one concern of suburban fire departments that first-responders wouldn’t get information on hazmat being shipped in a timely manner in cases of derailments or fires.

Regulators advised railroads and shippers they must provide first responders immediately with names and descriptions of hazardous materials, fire risks and the locations of tank cars on the train and their specifications, among other details.

Another recommendation was that “only the highest skilled inspectors” conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains carrying large quantities of flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.

“That struck me as incredibly odd,” Darch said, noting she was under the impression only well-qualified inspectors would be used in the first place given the volatility of some cargo on oil trains.

Regulators also issued an emergency order requiring trains with 20 or more continuous tank cars or 35 or more tank cars with Class 3 flammable liquids like crude oil stay at 40 mph or lower in urban areas.

Darch said restricting the speed limits to trains with 20 or 35 tank cars of flammable hazmat didn’t cover safety concerns when freights had smaller loads.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called the changes “steps in the right direction, but they are not enough. We have to move to a new generation of tank cars that bring a new generation of safety. We are seeing the use of these tank cars moving crude oil in dramatically large numbers through rural and urban areas.”

Durbin is asking regulators to finalize new rules ordering retrofitting and replacement of older, accident-prone tank cars.

Since Feb. 16, four derailments of trains carrying crude oil with subsequent fire balls have occurred in the United States and Canada. One involved tank cars on a BNSF train outside of Galena March 5.

Federal Emergency Order 28, Safety Advisory 2013-06, hazardous materials safety, action plan

Repost from Federal Railroad Administration
Editor:  See links to original April 17 documents below.  (These, and dditional orders going back to September 2012 can be viewed here.)  – RS]

Policy and Guidance

Safety Action Plan for Hazardous Materials Safety

Federal Railroad Administration’s Action Plan for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP)

In response to train accidents in the United States and Canada involving tank cars carrying crude oil, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), continue to pursue a comprehensive, all-of-the-above approach in minimizing risk and ensuring the safe transport of crude oil by rail.

Over the past year, FRA and PHMSA have undertaken nearly two dozen actions to enhance the safe transport of crude oil. This comprehensive approach includes near and long-term steps such as: launching “Operation Classification” in the Bakken region to verify that crude oil is being properly classified; issuing safety advisories, alerts, emergency orders and regulatory updates; conducting special inspections; aggressively moving forward with a rulemaking to enhance tank car standards; and reaching agreement with railroad companies on a series of immediate voluntary actions including reducing speeds, increasing inspections, using new brake technology and investing in first responder training.

Here is a chronology of actions DOT, PHMSA and FRA have pursued over the past year(s):

April 17, 2015

FRA and PHMSA issued:

FRA Emergency Order No. 30, Notice No. 1: Establishing a Maximum Operating Speed of 40 mph in High-Threat Urban Areas for Certain Trains Transporting Large Quantities of Class 3 Flammable Liquids

PHMSA Notice 15-7: Hazardous Materials: Emergency Response Information Requirements

FRA/PHMSA Safety Advisory on Information Requirements Related to the Transportation of Trains Carrying Specified Volumes of Flammable Liquids:

FRA Safety Advisory 2015-01: Mechanical Inspections and Wheel Impact Detector Standards for Trains Transporting Large Amounts of Class 3 Flammable Liquids

FRA Letter to AAR:

Special Study Block FRA Notice: www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L16324

Federal inspectors find 100 defects on crude oil trains, tracks

Repost from the White Plains NY Journal News on LoHud.com
[Editor: Significant quote: “At the CSX-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, 106 DOT-111 crude oil tank cars were checked and three had found to have critical defects, including a cracked weld, a missing bolt and one inoperative brake assembly….Since the state began its “inspection blitz” last February, inspectors have examined 7,368 rail cars (including 5,360 DOT-111s) and 2,659 miles of track, uncovering 840 defects, and issuing 12 hazardous materials violations. The state recently hired five new rail inspectors.”  – RS]

Inspectors find 100 defects on crude oil trains, tracks

By Khurram Saeed, December 15, 2014
State and federal railroad safety officials have inspected more than 7,300 rail cars and 2,600 miles of track since last February in response to increase shipments of Bakken crude across nearly 1,000 miles of New York. (Photo: Associated Press)

A broken rail, defective train car wheels and missing bolts on the tracks were among some of the problems state and federal teams found during its most recent round of statewide inspections of oil trains and the rail lines they use.

They identified 100 defects, including eight safety defects that require immediate action, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said in a release.

Inspection teams from the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration on Dec. 9 examined 704 crude oil tank cars and about 95 miles of track as part of the state’s on-going response to a surge in rail shipments of Bakken crude across nearly 1,000 miles of New York.

They did not look at the River Line, the track owned by CSX Corp. that runs through the Hudson Valley, including Rockland. As many as 30 trains carrying 80 to 100 tank cars filled with explosive crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota head south to East Coast refineries.

But the inspection of 15 miles of CSX-owned mainline track near Albany found a critical switch gauge defect that required a speed reduction, the release said. They also discovered four non-critical defects, including loose bolts. They must be repaired within 30 days.

“We have sent inspection crews to check rail tracks and crude oil cars across New York and we continue to find critical safety defects that put New Yorkers at risk,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Crude oil tank cars, especially the older DOT-111 models are also in the spotlight because they have been involved in several accidents, including an derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013. Bakken crude is volatile and can catch fire should the tank rupture or derail.

The federal government is reviewing rules that would increase safety standards.

At the CSX-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, 106 DOT-111 crude oil tank cars were checked and three had found to have critical defects, including a cracked weld, a missing bolt and one inoperative brake assembly.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said in an email that the railroad “appreciates Governor Cuomo’s continued focus on making the safe transportation of energy products even safer,” adding that CSX is “committed to strong, ongoing and long-term coordination with state and local officials.”

Since the state began its “inspection blitz” last February, inspectors have examined 7,368 rail cars (including 5,360 DOT-111s) and 2,659 miles of track, uncovering 840 defects, and issuing 12 hazardous materials violations. The state recently hired five new rail inspectors.