PHMSA Looks Into Rail Car Safety Proposals

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A spat of recent train accidents, especially one derailment incident in Quebec, Canada that led to the deaths of 47 people, has led many safety advocates to call for improvements to rail cars designed to transport hazardous materials.  Now, a key federal agency has announced its intention to look into safety improvements.

The proposals coming from various industry and government organizations will be reviewed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  Those proposals hinge on changing the shape of cars so that additional protection is afforded in the event of a derailment.  Many worry that the shape of some current cars leaves them susceptible to a breach that could affect the hazardous materials onboard.

There’s some debate over what improvements should entail.  The National Transportation Safety Board and others concerned about rail safety, for example, want to see older cars retrofitted to accommodate a new, safer structure.  That’s in addition to new cars having to meet the requirements.  But rail industry groups such as the Association of American Railroads argue that it’s not feasible to retrofit older cars and would thus like to see only new cars subject to the more stringent regulations.

Meanwhile, the Compressed Gas Association would like to see future regulations take into consideration a rule that prohibits filling rail cars completely with gas in its liquid state.