Recommendation R14-01

Reassessment of the response to Rail Safety Recommendation R14-01

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Enhanced protection standards for Class 111 tank cars

Background

On 06 July 2013, shortly before 0100 Eastern Daylight Time, eastward Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway freight train MMA-002, which had been parked unattended for the night at Nantes, Quebec, started to roll. The train travelled about 7.2 miles, reaching a speed of 65 mph. At about 0115, while approaching the centre of the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, 63 tank cars carrying petroleum crude oil, UN 1267, and 2 box cars derailed. As a result of the derailment, about 6 million litres of petroleum crude oil spilled. There were fires and explosions, which destroyed 40 buildings, 53 vehicles and the railway tracks at the west end of Megantic Yard, and 47 people were fatally injured. There was environmental contamination of the downtown, the adjacent river and lake.

The examination of the 63 general-service Class 111 tank cars that derailed at Lac-Mégantic revealed that 59 of the cars (94%) had released product due to tank car damage. The damage to the pre-CPC-1232 tank cars in Lac-Mégantic clearly indicates that product release could have been reduced had the tank car shells and heads been more impact-resistant. Design improvements to these types of cars are needed to mitigate the risks of a dangerous goods release and the consequences witnessed in the Lac-Mégantic accident. Commodities posing significant risks must be shipped in safe containers that include defences such as stronger tank shells, tank car jackets, full-height head shields, thermal protection and high-capacity pressure relief devices. Given the magnitude of the risks and given that tank car standards must be set for the North American rail industry, the Board recommends that

The Department of Transport and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration require that all Class 111 tank cars used to transport flammable liquids meet enhanced protection standards that significantly reduce the risk of product loss when these cars are involved in accidents.
TSB Recommendation R14-01

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R14-01 (April 2014)

On addressing DOT-111 tank car vulnerabilities, Transport Canada (TC) will immediately and unilaterally prohibit the use of the highest-risk group of older DOT-111 tanks cars. A Protective Direction under subsection 32(1) of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 was issued on 23 April 2014 and prohibits the use of tank cars that have no continuous reinforcement of their bottom shell to carry any Class 3 flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol. Industry had 30 days to fully comply.

TC will require that all pre-CPC-1232/TP14877 tank cars used for the transportation of crude oil and ethanol be phased out of service or retrofitted within 3 years.

In the interim, the train routing restrictions outlined in the TC response to recommendation R14-02 are designed to reduce these risks. As North America's integrated market necessitates close cooperation, it is important that, in the longer term, Canada harmonizes with the United States to the greatest extent possible. However, in this area, Canada will move more aggressively to address the safety concerns of Canadians. The Departmental objective will be to meet or exceed any new United States standards; therefore, officials will continue to work closely to harmonize and accelerate the technical work required to develop future, more stringent tank car construction and retrofit standards to further enhance the safety of Canadians.

In addition, to ensure that the safety standard for these tank cars continues to be enhanced, to address the immediate safety issues, and as recommended by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods General Policy Advisory Council Working Group on Means of Containment, the Department will proceed expeditiously with Canada Gazette, Part II publication of 13 updated means of containment standards, including the 2011 standard for DOT-111 tank cars. Canada introduced this revised DOT-111 tank car standard for consultation on 11 January 2014, proposing the requirement of end-of-tank protection, thicker and more impact-resistant steel tanks, and protected top fittings, to improve accident performance.

Board assessment of the response Transport Canada to Recommendation R14-01 (June 2014)

Transport Canada (TC) has accepted the recommendation and has immediately prohibited the use of some older Class 111 tanks cars. TC will also require that all pre-CPC-1232/TP14877 tank cars used for the transportation of crude oil and ethanol be phased out of service or retrofitted within 3 years.

TC has committed to expeditiously publish updated regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II. These regulations will incorporate by reference 13 updated means of containment standards, including the new standard TP14877, which adopts the Association of American Railroads (AAR) 2011 CPC-1232 standard for Class 111 tank cars, making it mandatory to build new tank cars for the transport of crude oil and ethanol to the new standard as a minimum.

However, the revised Class 111 tank car standard introduced for consultation in January 2014 is not sufficiently robust to minimize the risk of dangerous goods releases when these cars are involved in a derailment. The railway industry is asking both Canadian and United States regulators to go much further than the AAR 2011 CPC-1232 standard, and it would seem that both governments are actively discussing improvements.

The Board is encouraged by the safety actions taken to date and the immediate steps to mitigate the risks. However, the process to implement safety enhancements to the fleet of tank cars will take time and the specific improvements to new tank car designs will not be known until the process is finalized. Therefore, until all pre-CPC-1232/TP14877 tank 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.

For these reasons, the Board assesses the TC response to Recommendation R14-01 as being Satisfactory in Part.

Response from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Recommendation R14-01 (June 2014)

On 30 April 2014, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), on behalf of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), submitted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) titled Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HM-251) to the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review. This followed the publication, on 06 September 2013, of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) titled Hazardous Materials: Rail Petitions and Recommendations to Improve the Safety of Railroad Tank Car Transportation (RRR), in the Federal Register by PHMSA.

This NPRM proposes a comprehensive approach to rail safety to improve tank car integrity, as well as to provide additional operational controls, to enhance emergency response, and to establish methods to improve the classification and characterization of hazardous materials. PHMSA and the FRA are sharply focused on developing and finalizing this rulemaking.

In addition to ongoing regulatory efforts, on 07 May 2014, PHMSA and the FRA issued Safety Advisory Notice No. 14-07, titled Recommendations for Tank Cars Used for the Transportation of Petroleum Crude Oil by Rail. In the Notice, PHMSA and the FRA urge carriers transporting Bakken crude oil by rail to use the tank car specifications that are of the highest integrity within their existing fleet. The Notice also recommends that the railroad carriers avoid using DOT-111 or CTC-111 legacy tank cars for the shipment of such crude oil to the extent reasonably practicable.

Through collaboration in the United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, PHMSA and the FRA have been working closely with Transport Canada on a variety of hazardous materials transportation issues, including the development of enhanced protection standards for tank cars.

Board assessment of the response from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Recommendation R14-01 (July 2014)

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has accepted the recommendation and a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on enhanced tank car standards has been submitted for review. PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are continuing to work with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to expedite its review and ensure the NPRM is published as quickly as possible.

Also, as a result of the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) published last September, PHMSA has evaluated 130 comments from over 150 000 signatories on issues raised in 8 petitions for rulemaking and 7 safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The comments pertained to a variety of topics, including the redesign of DOT Specification 111 tank cars, as well as operational practices such as speed limits, train securement, and track integrity.

However, the enhanced tank car standards and operational controls are currently under review and the NPRM has not yet been published. The railway industry has asked both Canadian and United States regulators to go much further than the AAR 2011 CPC-1232 standard, and it seems that both governments are actively discussing improvements. In the interim, the recommendations contained in Notice No. 14-07, urging carriers to use the tank car specifications that are of the highest integrity and recommending that they avoid the use of the older (referred to as ‘legacy') tank cars to the extent reasonably practicable, may in some small measure help reduce the risk of petroleum crude oil releases when tank cars are involved in a derailment.

The Board is encouraged by the safety actions taken to date, including measures taken to address issues raised in the safety recommendations issued by the NTSB on 23 January 2014. The Board also notes favourably the close cooperation between Canada and the United States in addressing this issue, as it is important that federal regulations in both countries be harmonized to the greatest extent possible given that North America is an integrated market. However, the process to implement safety enhancements to the fleet of tank cars will take time and the specific improvements to new tank car designs will not be known until the process is finalized. Therefore, until all pre-CPC-1232/TP14877 tank 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.

For these reasons, the Board assesses the PHMSA response to Recommendation R14-01 as being Satisfactory in Part.

Response from the Railway Association of Canada to Recommendation R14-01 (February 2015)

The railways have continued to petition TC and PHMSA to bring the standard to a higher, harmonized level. The RAC has asked TC to increase the standard now required in the TP14877, with attention given to retrofitting and retirements of older tank cars. The railways are opposed to including electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking in this standard at this time as it will lead to significant operational problems with very minimal safety benefit.

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R14-01 (May 2015)

On 23 April 2014, the Minister announced a three-year phase-out of older, less crash-resistant Class 111 tank cars. On 02 July 2014, the TP14877 standard was adopted by reference in the TDG regulations, establishing new minimum standards of safety for tank cars carrying certain flammable liquids. On 18 July 2014, Transport Canada (TC) published, for public consultation, proposed requirements for a new class of tank cars, the TC-140, designed for the transport of flammable liquids.

On 11 March 2015, TC published an update on its development activities relating to new tank car standards. TC had renamed the proposed new class of tank cars as TC-117. The updated provisions would require all new tank cars built for the transport of flammable liquids to be constructed using thicker and more impact-resistant steel and to be equipped with jacketed thermal protection, full-height head shields, top fittings protection, improved bottom outlet valves and appropriate pressure relief devices. TC indicated that the phase-out of legacy Class 111 tank cars (including the CPC-1232 tank cars) in flammable liquid service would be gradually implemented using a risk-based approach, taking into consideration the features of the tank cars and the characteristics of the flammable liquid being transported.

In the interim, up to 7500 CPC-1232 jacketed tank cars remained on order to be constructed for crude oil service in 2015. However, some tank car manufacturers had already started building new tank cars to the proposed TC-117 standard. In addition, some shippers and railway operators had announced orders for tank cars that meet the proposed TC-117 standard.

TC indicated its intention, following consultations, to consider including braking provisions, such as electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, in train operating rules as opposed to the new TC-117 tank car standard.

On 01 May 2015, TC announced the Regulations Amending the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TC-117 Tank Cars) which came into force when published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. These regulations require a new tank car standard (TC-117), retrofit requirements and implementation timelines to modernize the Canadian tank car fleet in flammable liquid service. The standards and timelines were generally harmonized with the United States regulators (PHMSA and FRA).

The less robust legacy Class 111 cars used for petroleum crude oil service will be retrofitted first. Some Class 111 cars, including jacketed CPC-1232 cars, can remain in selected flammable liquid service until 2025. TC believes that the schedule is aggressive but achievable given industry capacity and the need for harmonization with the United States.

Board reassessment of the response from Transport Canada to Recommendation R14-01 (May 2015)

Subsequent to the Lac-Mégantic accident, there has been considerable action by the railway industry to identify a superior tank car specification to replace the existing Class 111 tank cars. It was recognized that the TP14877 standard was not sufficiently robust to address the risks.

Transport Canada (TC) worked with the United States regulators to develop and implement enhanced protection standards, including a harmonized tank car standard, retrofit requirements and implementation timelines. The new tank car standard (TC-117) requires all new tank cars built for the transport of flammable liquids to be constructed using thicker and more impact-resistant steel and to be equipped with jacketed thermal protection, full-height head shields, top fittings protection, improved bottom outlet valves and appropriate pressure relief devices. These provisions will result in a more robust tank car with improved head and shell puncture resistance, improved top and bottom fittings protection and improved resistance to specified fire conditions.

A gradual phase-out of legacy Class 111 tank cars was established using a risk-based approach, based primarily on features of the tank cars, on the characteristics of the flammable liquid being transported and on the capacity of industry to retrofit existing tank cars, and to build new ones. The timeline will ensure that the less robust legacy Class 111 cars used for petroleum crude oil service will be retrofitted first. However, some Class 111 cars, including jacketed CPC-1232 cars, can remain in selected flammable liquid service until 2025. In setting the timeline, TC examined the industry's capacity to implement the required changes.

A preliminary assessment of the performance of CPC-1232 tank cars based on a number of recent crude oil unit train accidents identified vulnerability of this type of tank car to similar failures as the legacy Class 111 tank cars. Given the established timeline, and in light of recent derailments, the Board is concerned about the adequacy of the existing risk control measures during the transition. The risk assessments of transporting flammable liquids by rail using the current tank cars must include a thorough review of the operational and infrastructure risks. These risks must be actively managed during the transition period.

TC has announced the final regulations detailing the new tank car requirements and timelines, allowing industry to begin modernizing the tank car fleet. Therefore, the Board reassesses the TC response to Recommendation R14-01 as having Satisfactory Intent.

However, until flammable liquids are transported in tank cars built sufficiently robust to prevent catastrophic failure when involved in an accident, the risk will remain high. Therefore, the Board calls upon TC to ensure that risk control measures during the transition are effectively managed.

Response from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Recommendation R14-01 (May 2015)

On 01 August 2014, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HM-251).

This NPRM proposed several changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) which would apply to certain trains transporting large volumes of Class 3 flammable liquids and include improvements in tank car standards as well as new operations requirements such as speed restrictions and enhanced braking.

Over 3300 public comments were received. Following the closing of the comment period on 30 September 2014, PHMSA, in coordination with the FRA, developed a final rule, which was submitted on 05 February 2015 to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review.

On 01 May 2015, the United States Department of Transportation announced its new tank car standard (DOT-117), retrofit requirements and implementation timelines. These standards and timelines are generally harmonized with Transport Canada.

Board reassessment of the response from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Recommendation R14-01 (May 2015)

Following the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on enhanced tank cars published in August 2014, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has evaluated over 3300 public comments. A proposed final rule that contains improvements to the tank car standard and new operations requirements was submitted in February 2015 to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review.

In April 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board issued urgent recommendations calling for specific tank car improvements and greater specificity for the phase-out schedule. In May 2015, the United States Department of Transportation announced its new tank car standard (DOT-117), retrofit requirements and implementation timelines, which were generally harmonized with Transport Canada. However, until flammable liquids are transported in tank cars built sufficiently robust to prevent catastrophic failure when involved in an accident, the risk will remain high.

Therefore, the Board reassesses the PHMSA response to Recommendation R14-01 as having Satisfactory Intent.

Response from the Railway Association of Canada to Recommendation R14-01 (January 2016)

The Railway Association of Canada and industry support continued improvement to tank car standards.

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R14-01 (March 2016)

In May 2015, Transport Canada (TC) published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, the Regulations Amending the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TC-117 Tank Cars). These regulations established the requirements for a new flammable liquid tank car standard (TC-117), retrofit requirements for older tank cars in flammable liquid service, and implementation timelines to modernize the Canadian tank car fleet. The standards and timelines were generally harmonized with the United States regulators (PHMSA and FRA). With the coming into force in the United States of the recent Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) legislation, the United States has further harmonized with the Canadian requirements.

The Canadian regulations require that all new tank cars built for the transport of flammable liquids be constructed using thicker and more impact-resistant steel and be equipped with jacketed thermal protection, full-height head shields, top fittings protection, improved bottom outlet valves, and appropriate pressure relief devices.

TC continues to work with the Canadian industry to consider braking provisions, such as electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, in train operating rules rather than considering such braking provisions within the requirements of the TC-117 tank car standard. TC is also following closely the new requirements brought forward by the United States FAST legislation, which imposed new research requirements before ECP braking can be brought into effect in the United States.

TC continues to monitor closely the construction of new TC-117 tank cars and the retrofitting of older flammable liquid tank cars.As of March 2016, for North America, over 7000 new TC-117 tank cars have been built and put into service. Over 250 tank cars have been retrofitted to the new TC-117 standard. The retrofits have primarily been to CPC-1232 jacketed tank cars and unjacketed DOT-111 tank cars.

With the ongoing low world demand for crude oil, and its associated low world price, the transport of crude oil by rail has slowed, and consequently so has tank car demand. Shippers and builders have used this low-demand cycle to better assess fleet usage, tank car demand, and retrofit requirements. With the coming into force of the United States FAST Act, which brings United States requirements further in line with Canadian requirements, industry has begun to ramp up the retrofitting of DOT-111 tank cars in flammable liquid service. Over the coming months, TC expects to see the number of retrofitted/new-build tank cars to continue to increase to meet demand and the phase-out schedule.

At present, TC's analysis is that there is sufficient tank car retrofit and new-build capacity to meet present and projected tank car demand. Industry is aware of the phase-out/retrofit timelines and continues to reiterate to the Department that it will meet the timelines prescribed in the Canadian regulations. If necessary, TC will fully enforce the phase-out retrofit timelines as prescribed in the regulations.

Board reassessment of the response to Recommendation R14-01 (March 2016)

This recommendation is related to the TSB Watchlist issue of “Transportation of flammable liquids by rail”. The transportation of flammable liquids, such as crude oil, by rail across North America has created emerging risks that need to be effectively mitigated. Recommendation R14-01 is specific to new and existing Class 111 tank cars for the transport of flammable liquids.

In May 2015, Transport Canada (TC) published a new set of regulations that established the requirement for a new tank car standard (TC-117), retrofit requirements, and timelines to retrofit the tank car fleet. The new regulations require that all new tank cars built for the transport of flammable liquids be constructed using thicker and more impact-resistant steel and be equipped with jacketed thermal protection, full-height head shields, top fittings protection, improved bottom outlet valves, and appropriate pressure relief devices. TC is monitoring the construction of new TC-117 tank cars, and is reviewing and considering braking provisions such as electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes from a train operations perspective, but no specific initiatives have yet been identified in this regard. The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) and industry continue to support improvement in tank car standards.

TC is also in the process of updating TP14877, Containers for Transport of Dangerous Goods by Rail, December 2013. This standard covers large means of containment used in the handling, offering for transport, and transporting of dangerous goods by rail. The update will focus on incorporating recent regulatory changes and proposals to be considered by the TP14877 Consultative Committee. This committee is composed of key stakeholders with extensive knowledge and expertise relating to the transportation of dangerous goods by rail. On 08 March 2016, a public notice was issued seeking input and comments for updating this standard.

The Board acknowledges TC's commitment and progress made on the publication of the new tank car standards and the updating of TP14877. The Board notes the progress made on the construction of new TC-117 tank cars and the retrofitting of older flammable liquid tank cars. Given TC's progress made on this issue, its ongoing monitoring, and its intention to fully enforce the phase-out retrofit timelines, the Board considers the response to Recommendation R14-01 as having Satisfactory Intent.

However, until all flammable liquids are transported in tank cars built sufficiently robust to prevent catastrophic failure when involved in an accident, the risk will remain high. Therefore, the Board calls upon TC to ensure that risk control measures during the transition are effectively managed.

Response from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Recommendation R14-01 (February 2016)

On 08 May 2015, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published in the Federal Register the final rule entitled Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HM-251). This rule amends the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

The final rule is designed to reduce the consequences and, in some instances, reduce the probability of accidents involving trains transporting large quantities of Class 3 flammable liquids. Adopted provisions include operational and safety improvements to address the unique risks associated with the growing reliance on trains to transport large quantities of flammable liquids, such as

  • Regulating the operations (in terms of speed restrictions, braking systems and routing) of certain trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids (defined as “high-hazard flammable trains”)
  • Implementing a sampling and classification program for unrefined petroleum-based products
  • Adopting safety improvements in tank car standards, including the new DOT-117 specification, legacy tank car retrofit requirements and implementation timelines.

Following the publication of the final rule, a number of appeals to the rule were submitted to PHMSA and the FRA. Appeals included the following: tank car retrofit timeline, associated reporting requirements, and tank car thermal protection provisions.

On 18 November 2015, PHMSA and the FRA respectfully denied the appeals. PHMSA and the FRA maintained that the new regulations and the regulatory analysis to support those decisions were conducted through careful consideration, and that industry was capable of complying with the final rule.

On 04 December 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST act). The FAST Act contains numerous provisions aimed at further improving rail safety, including:

  • Enhanced thermal protection requirements for new or retrofitted tank cars
  • Top fittings protection requirements for retrofitted older tank cars
  • Restrictions on the use of older DOT-111 tank cars in flammable liquid service
  • A commodity-based tank car retrofit/phase-out schedule
  • Monitoring of the progress of tank car fleet retrofits
  • Applicability to all Class 3 flammable liquids, regardless of train configuration.

In February 2016, PHMSA indicated that it is in the process of developing a plan to implement the various provisions enacted by the FAST Act. This includes proposals for rulemaking for consequential revisions to the HMR.

Board reassessment of the response from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Recommendation R14-01 (March 2016)

The final rule published in May 2015 amended the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) and included various safety and operational improvements such as enhanced tank car standards, speed restrictions, braking systems, and routing. With the signing of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) into law in December 2015, additional safety improvements to tank cars were enacted, including the requirement for enhanced thermal protection, top fittings protection, and provisions to monitor the progress of the retrofits of tank car fleets.

The final rule, combined with the provisions of the FAST Act, puts in place the regulatory framework for the enhancement of protection standards for tank cars used to transport flammable liquids.

The Board looks forward to the timely implementation of these new provisions, in particular the monitoring of the progress of tank car fleet retrofits.

Until all flammable liquids are transported in tank cars built sufficiently robust to prevent catastrophic failure when involved in an accident, the risk will remain high. Therefore, the Board reassesses the PHMSA response to Recommendation R14-01 as having Satisfactory Intent.

Next TSB action

The TSB will continue to monitor progress on the implementation of the new standards for tank cars used to transport flammable liquids and on the retrofit of the legacy Class 111 cars.

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