Canadian Underwriter

Canadian, U.S. ministers announce new class of tank car for the transportation of flammable liquids in North America

May 4, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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Lisa Raitt, the federal Minister of Transport and U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, unveiled a new class of rail tank car for flammable liquids on Friday.

Smoke rises from tanker cars in downtown Lac-Megantic, Que., on July 6, 2013. The law firm representing the families of 47 people killed in the 2013 Lac Megantic train crash says it has received a financial proposal that would see them split $76 million in compensation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

This newer, stronger tank car will be used for the transportation of flammable liquids, such as crude oil and ethanol, Transport Canada said in a press statement. The new TC-117 regulation is the result of collaboration on both sides of the border, with a joint goal of strengthening the safety of the two countries’ inter-connected rail networks. The regulation requires any new tank car used for flammable liquid dangerous goods service manufactured on or after Oct. 1, 2015, to be built to the TC-117 standard.

The announcement comes nearly two years after the July 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., which claimed the lives of 47 people. Tank cars involved in the accident included the old DOT-111 tank cars; Raitt committed last April to phase out these tank cars.

“The Government of Canada is delivering on the promise made one year ago to develop a stronger, safer, more robust tank car,” Raitt said in the statement. “The TC-117 offers a new standard of protection to complement the actions taken to protect communities on both sides of the border.”

Transport Canada said in the statement that the new TC-117 standard includes enhanced safety features that “represent a considerable improvement over previous tank car standards.” The regulations will be applied first to cars carrying crude oil by all railway companies in Canada and the United States. The new TC-117 tank car will be jacketed and constructed with thicker steel, thermal protection, a full head shield, top fitting protection and a new bottom outlet valve. [click image below to enlarge]

The new TC-117 tank car will be jacketed and constructed with thicker steel, thermal protection, a full head shield, top fitting protection and a new bottom outlet valve

The regulation builds on previous regulatory actions, which include enhancements to train operations, track inspections, train speeds, sharing of information with municipalities, emergency response assistance plans and classification. The regulation also establishes the prescriptive and performance requirements to retrofit a tank car, as well as the retrofit schedule for DOT-111 and CPC 1232 tank cars used to transport flammable liquids. “This approach removes the least crash resistant tank cars from crude oil carriage first, focusing industry’s efforts on the highest risk areas,” the statement said.

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) said in a press release on Friday that it welcomes the harmonized rail tank car standard. “We believe that harmonization and consistency between Canadian and U.S. tank car requirements is important to ensure a safe and efficient rail transportation system in North America,” said Michael Bourque, president and CEO of RAC. “A speedy transition to a safer means of containment – the TC-117 tank car – is the most important safety measure we can take to ensure the safe transport of dangerous goods.”

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) also welcomed the new regulation, but said in a release that it was disappointed the rule requires either the use of ECP brakes or the imposition of a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit.

“The DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) has no substantial evidence to support a safety justification for mandating ECP brakes, which will not prevent accidents,” argued Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO. “This decision not only threatens the operational management of the U.S. rail system, but trains moving 30 mph will compromise network capacity by at least 30 percent. Slow-moving trains will back up the entire rail system.”

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