Recommendation R14-02

Reassessment of the responses to Rail Safety Recommendation R14-02

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Route planning and analysis for trains transporting dangerous goods

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.

A primary safety concern related to the transportation of dangerous goods by rail is the prevention of a catastrophic release or explosion in a densely populated area or in an environmentally sensitive area. The Lac-Mégantic accident has heightened the public's awareness of the risks associated with the transportation of dangerous goods.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) Circular OT-55-N or similar operating restrictions are necessary to alleviate many of the shortcomings identified during the Lac-Mégantic investigation and other investigations involving the release of dangerous goods.

However, these measures need to be complemented by a more comprehensive, proactive approach. An approach based on Circular OT-55-N, strengthened with a requirement to conduct route planning and analysis, would be a positive step to improve the safety of transporting dangerous goods by rail. Therefore, the Board recommended that:

The Department of Transport set stringent criteria for the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods, and require railway companies to conduct route planning and analysis as well as perform periodic risk assessments to ensure that risk control measures work.
TSB Recommendation R14-02

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R14-02 (April 2014)

On addressing route planning and analysis for trains carrying dangerous goods, Transport Canada (TC) issued an Emergency Directive under section 33 of the Railway Safety Act on 23 April 2014. It requires railways carrying dangerous goods to implement minimum key operating practices to address the Board's recommendation and manage the immediate safety issue, including speed restrictions for trains carrying dangerous goods, expansion of inspection requirements on restricted rail routes, and the completion of risk assessments for rail transportation routes. These requirements are built upon voluntary approaches in the United States, but also take into account differences in Canadian operations and areas where Canadian requirements are already more stringent.

The Emergency Directive is in force for 6 months and may need to be renewed to reflect further consultation with stakeholders, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, unions, and consideration of any additional United States requirements that may be established. Any further safety advisories or recommendations in this area from the TSB will also need to be taken into account.

At the same time, TC also issued a Ministerial Order under section 19 of the Railway Safety Act requiring railways carrying dangerous goods to formulate and submit for approval within 180 days new rules based on these operating practices to further improve the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail in the long term.

Board assessment of the response to Recommendation R14-02 (June 2014)

Transport Canada (TC) has accepted the recommendation and has issued an Emergency Directive that requires railways to set improved criteria for the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods, to conduct route planning and analysis, and to perform initial and periodic risk assessments. Further consultations with stakeholders will be conducted and the Emergency Directive may be renewed and modified based on any new information.

The Emergency Directive is in force for 6 months and may need to be renewed to reflect further consultation with stakeholders, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, unions, and consideration of any additional United States requirements that may be established. Any further safety advisories or recommendations in this area from the TSB will also need to be taken into account.

TC also issued a Ministerial Order requiring railways carrying dangerous goods to formulate and submit for approval new rules to improve their operating practices for the safe and secure transportation of dangerous goods. If the new rules contain the same scope of activities or more, but are strengthened to include more railway routes, the risk posed by movements of dangerous goods could be significantly reduced. However, the proposed rules have not yet been developed and the outcome cannot be known until the process is finalized.

Therefore, the Board assesses the response to Recommendation R14-02 as having Satisfactory Intent.

Response from the Railway Association of Canada to Recommendation R14-02 (February 2015)

The Emergency Directive (ED) issued on 23 April 2014 placed restrictions on key trains and key routes. It also required that risk assessments be conducted for all key routes. The RAC filed a rule to incorporate these requirements with the Minister on 20 October 2014. This rule has not yet been approved, as TC asked for an extension. There is currently a second ED in effect, identical to the first. On 17 November 2014, under section 36 of the Railway Safety Act, TC required companies to file their Key Route Risk Assessments by December 1st. Industry complied, including CP, CN, BNSF, and SOR.

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R14-02 (May 2015)

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) on behalf of its member railways filed the Rules respecting Key Trains and Key Routes, on 20 October 2014. The period for Transport Canada's (TC's) consideration of the rules was extended to allow for further examination of the RAC proposal. On 17 April 2015, TC rejected the RAC proposal, after determining that the proposed rules were not sufficiently conducive to safe railway operations. TC will be issuing a new Ministerial Order before summer to the industry. The deadline to submit proposed rules will be provided at that time. On 23 April 2015, given that no rules were approved, and in the interest of ensuring continued safety, TC issued a new Emergency Directive regarding the Rail Transportation of Dangerous Goods which will remain in effect until 17 August 2015.

The five railways that have identified key routes have filed their risk assessments with TC which are currently being reviewed. The reviews will be completed by summer 2015. As required, the railways will be informed of what is needed in order to meet the Emergency Directive.

TC is confident that under the current definition of key routes, all mainlines and secondary lines have been identified. With respect to the 10 000-carload threshold, it was adopted based on the criteria outlined in the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Circular OT-55-N, which were also adopted by United States railways. TC recognizes that more analysis must be performed in order to determine a carload threshold that would optimize the safe transportation of dangerous goods, which may lead to more stringent criteria for key routes. TC will contract a third-party expert to conduct the necessary analysis to determine the appropriate threshold criteria.

TC is also considering whether to expand the current criteria that define key trains by introducing requirements for technology that could enhance braking capability. Moreover, through the Risk-Based Planning process, TC will review all federally regulated railways to identify those that transport crude oil, but did not meet the 10 000-tank car threshold on their routes. Through this risk-based approach, TC will assign appropriate resources to further monitor these railway operators.

The Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on 25 February 2015 and in force on 01 April 2015, contain requirements for a risk assessment process. Section 15 of the regulations requires that a railway company must conduct a risk assessment when it proposes to begin transporting dangerous goods, or to begin transporting dangerous goods different from those it already transports, or when there is a proposed change to its railway operations. Changes in railway operations include a change that may affect the safety of the public or personnel or the protection of property or the environment, such as an increase in the volume of dangerous goods it transports and a change to the route on which dangerous goods are transported.

Furthermore, in May 2015, TC announced the final regulations detailing the new tank car requirements (TC-117) and the retrofit schedule, allowing industry to begin modernizing the tank car fleet for transporting flammable liquids.

Board reassessment of the response to Recommendation R14-02 (May 2015)

Transport Canada (TC) issued a new Emergency Directive regarding the Rail Transportation of Dangerous Goods which will remain in effect until 17 August 2015. Key route risk assessments have been prepared by the railways and are currently under review by TC. For railways that do not meet the 10 000-tank car threshold, TC will assign appropriate resources to monitor the railway’s route planning and analysis and risk assessments for the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods. The Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 also contain requirements for the railway to conduct risk assessments under several additional scenarios involving the transportation of dangerous goods. These proposed safety actions, combined with the implementation of new tank car standards (TC-117), are expected to substantially reduce the risk associated with this safety deficiency.

A preliminary assessment of the performance of CPC-1232 tank cars based on a number of recent crude oil unit train accidents has identified vulnerability of this type of tank car to similar failures as the legacy Class 111 tank cars. Given the schedule for the implementation of new tank car standards, and in light of recent derailments, the Board is concerned about the adequacy of the existing risk control measures during the transition. Strategies for route planning and analysis must consider the risks when using Class 111 tank cars during the phase-out period. 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 and these risks must be effectively managed.

When key route risk assessments and mitigation strategies are completed and when the new tank car standards and retrofits are substantially implemented, the risks associated with the transportation of flammable liquids by rail should be significantly reduced.

Therefore, the Board reassesses the response to Recommendation R14-02 as having Satisfactory Intent.

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R14-02 (January 2016)

Transport Canada (TC) issued an updated Emergency Directive regarding the Rail Transportation of Dangerous Goods on 17 August 2015, in effect until 18 February 2016, along with a new Ministerial Order for reformulated rules respecting key trains and key routes. The rules were submitted on 15 December 2015.

The five railways that have identified key routes have filed their risk assessments with TC. The risk assessments were reviewed during March and April 2015 by TC, and discussions were held with each company on the content of their submission. TC had further discussions with those companies whose risk assessments were not deemed to have met the intent of the Emergency Directive requirements. As a result, those companies provided additional analysis and information.

TC is confident that, under the current definition of Key Routes, all mainlines and secondary lines have been identified. With respect to the 10 000-carload threshold, it was adopted based on the criteria outlined in the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Circular OT-55-N, which was also adopted by United States railways. TC recognizes that more analysis must be performed to determine a carload threshold that would optimize the safe transportation of dangerous goods, which may lead to more stringent criteria for key routes. TC has contracted a third-party expert to conduct the necessary analysis to determine the appropriate threshold criteria.

The project, which is being led by TC’s Transport Development Centre, will determine the appropriate threshold criteria for key routes. The decision has been made to develop a TC-specific tool/methodology for this project. Evaluation of existing applications revealed these were not designed for the purpose of the project work and lacked Canadian data. Research into the background of the AAR OT-55-L definition of key routes is ongoing. As this definition dates back more than 20 years, there is little historical information available. The literature gathered to date is being reviewed. In addition, Canadian rail traffic (carload/volume) and accident data analysis is ongoing. The final report for this project is expected by October 2016.

TC is also considering whether to expand the current criteria that define key trains by introducing requirements for technology that could enhance braking capability. Moreover, through the Risk-Based Planning process, TC will review all federally regulated railways to identify those that transport crude oil, but did not meet the 10 000-tank car threshold on their routes. Through this risk-based approach, TC has assigned appropriate resources to further monitor these railway operators.

As part of its risk-based business planning process, oversight of the emergency directives (EDs) on Rail Transportation of Dangerous Goods (Key Trains/Key Routes) was identified as a key risk control action. TC has incorporated into its National Oversight Plan a dedicated inspection program for railways operating key trains (including those who did not meet the 10 000-tank car threshold of having a key route).

The Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on 25 February 2015 and in force on 01 April 2015, contain requirements for a risk assessment process. Section 15 of the regulations requires that a railway company must conduct a risk assessment when it proposes to begin transporting dangerous goods, or to begin transporting dangerous goods different from those it already transports, or when there is a proposed change to its railway operations. Changes in railway operations include a change that may affect the safety of the public or personnel, or the protection of property or the environment, such as an increase in the volume of dangerous goods it transports and a change to the route on which dangerous goods are transported.

Finally, in May 2015, TC published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, new regulations detailing the requirements for new-build flammable liquid tank car (TC-117), its associated retrofit requirements / schedule for older DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars, modernizing the tank car fleet for transporting flammable liquids in North America.

Response from the Railway Association of Canada to Recommendation R14-02 (January 2016)

On 15 December 2015, the Railway Association of Canada filed a rule with the Minister to incorporate these requirements. Industry has completed risk assessments on all key routes in the network.

Board reassessment of the response to Recommendation R14-02 (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.

On 17 August 2015, Transport Canada (TC) issued an updated Emergency Directive regarding the Rail Transportation of Dangerous Goods, which was in effect until 18 February 2016. TC also issued a Ministerial Order for new rules regarding key trains and key routes. TC approved the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes that were filed under section 19 of the Railway Safety Act on 15 December 2015. These rules came into effect on 19 February 2016.

Following the risk assessments from five railways reviewed in spring 2015, assessments which were deemed not to have met the Emergency Directive were returned for additional analysis and information.

In addition, TC has contracted a third-party to conduct the analysis to determine the appropriate threshold criteria on key routes. TC will be developing a specific tool/methodology for this project. TC will conduct ongoing research and will continue to review the rail traffic and accident data and literature. The final report is expected by October 2016.

TC will continue its risk-based approach and assign appropriate resources to monitor the railways. TC has incorporated a dedicated inspection program for railways operating key trains into its plan.

Given TC's progress on this issue, including more stringent risk assessment criteria for railways handling dangerous goods, the ongoing analysis to determine the appropriate threshold criteria on key routes, and the recent promulgation of Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes, the Board considers the risks associated with a catastrophic dangerous goods release or explosion to have been reduced. However, while some progress has been made on the five railways that have identified key routes, analysis of the appropriate threshold criteria for key routes must still be performed.

Therefore, the Board reassesses the response to Recommendation R14-02 as having Satisfactory Intent.

Next TSB action

The TSB will monitor progress on the development and TC oversight of the implementation of new rules and potentially new threshold criteria on key routes to improve railway operating practices for the safe transportation of dangerous goods.

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