Weekly Compliance Digest – U.S. Rule on Flammable Liquids by Rail
Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains
What is it?
Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a final rule for the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The final rule, developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in coordination with Canada, focused on safety improvements designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response.
The final rule includes requirements designed to reduce the consequences and the probability of accidents involving trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids. The final rule defines certain trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids as “high-hazard flammable trains” (HHFT) and regulates their operation in terms of speed restrictions, braking systems and routing.
The final rule also adopts safety improvements in tank car design standards, a sampling and classification program for unrefined petroleum-based products, and notification requirements. The DOT said that the operational and safety improvements were needed to address the risks associated with the growing reliance on trains to transport large quantities of flammable liquids. They incorporate recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and from public comments.
Who is affected?
The final rule affects mainly the following industries:
- Rail Transportation (NAICS code 482000)
- Petroleum Bulk Stations and Terminals (NAICS code 424710)
- Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction (NAICS code 211111)
- Natural Gas Liquid Extraction (NAICS code 211112)
What are the requirements?
Here are the key provisions from the rule:
- The rule applies to “High-hazard flammable trains” (HHFT), which is defined as “a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.”
- HHFTs must have in place a functioning two-way EOT (End-of-train) device or a DP braking system.
- Any high-hazard flammable unit train (HHFUT) transporting at least one PG I flammable liquid must be operated with an ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) braking system by January 1, 2021. All other HHFUTs must be operated with an ECP braking system by May 1, 2023.
- New tank cars built after October 1, 2015 are required to meet enhanced DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria for use in an HHFT.
- Existing tank cars must be retrofitted in accordance with the DOT-prescribed retrofit design or performance standard for use in an HHFT.
- All HHFTs are restricted to 50-mph in all areas.
- HHFTs that contain any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards required by the rule must operate at a 40-mph speed restriction in high-threat urban areas.
- More accurate classification of unrefined petroleum-based products, such as crude oil, is required, including documentation of sampling and testing programs. Companies must certify that such programs are in place and make information available to DOT personnel upon request.
- Railroads operating HHFTs are required to perform a routing analysis that considers, at a minimum, 27 safety and security factors and select a route based on its findings.
- Railroads must notify State and/or regional fusion centers, and provide appropriate contact information to State, local and tribal officials in case they want to request information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions.
What is next?
The final rule has been effective since July 7, 2015. The rule includes a number of deadlines for the retrofit of affected tank cars for use in North American HHFTs. The first deadline is January 1, 2017. By that date, non-jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in PG I service must be retrofitted. If a shipper is unable to meet the January 1, 2017 retrofit deadline, a mandatory reporting requirement would be triggered. The shipper would have to report to DOT the number of owned or leased tank cars that have been retrofitted, and the number of tank cars that have not been retrofitted.
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