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New Requirements and Recommendations from the FRA & PHMSA to Prevent Unintended Movement of HazMat Rail Cars

New Requirements and Recommendations from the FRA & PHMSA to Prevent Unintended Movement of HazMat Rail Cars

In a response to the July 6, 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, and before the investigation into the crash is complete, on  August 2nd the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) of the USDOT announced its intent to prevent similar accidents caused by trains operating on mainline tracks or sidings from moving unintentionally.

The announcement published in the August 7, 2013 Federal Register included two separate, but related, actions:

  • An Emergency Order issued by the FRA as a mandatory directive to the HazMat rail industry (carriers); and,
  • A Safety Advisory issued by both the FRA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) as a list of recommendations for both shipper and carriers of HazMat by rail.
The Emergency Order:

Who does it apply to?  Carriers of hazardous materials by rail (ie. the Railroads) operating on the general system.

When does it go into affect?  Implementation of these requirements is to begin immediately with full compliance by September 1, 2013.

Why is the FRA doing this?  To prevent train derailments and crashes caused by the unintended movement of HazMat railcars.

Where do these requirements apply?  To unattended trains and vehicles (ie. a car, locomotive, tender, or similar vehicle) on mainline track or mainline siding outside of a yard or terminal.  And only within the US; however, Transport Canada issued an emergency railroad directive and Rail Safety Advisory Letter of its own.

How can the FRA do this?  As an administration of the US Department of Transportation it has authority over all transportation by rail operating on the general system within the US.  Failure to comply will result in an enforcement action.

What are the requirements of the Emergency Order?

  • No train or vehicles transporting certain hazardous materials (specified in Appendix A) can be left unattended on a mainline track or side track outside a yard or terminal, unless specifically authorized (see next point).
  • In order to receive authorization to leave a train unattended, railroads must develop and submit to FRA a process for securing unattended trains transporting hazardous materials, including locking the locomotive or otherwise disabling it, and reporting among employees to ensure the correct number of hand brakes are applied.
  • Employees who are responsible for securing trains and vehicles transporting such specified hazardous material must communicate with the train dispatchers the number of hand brakes applied, the tonnage and length of the train or vehicle, the grade and terrain features of the track, any relevant weather conditions, and the type of equipment being secured.
  • Train dispatchers must record the information provided. The dispatcher or other qualified railroad employee must verify that the securement meets the railroad’s requirements.
  • Railroads must implement rules ensuring that any employee involved in securing a train participate in daily job briefings prior to the work being performed.
  • Railroads must develop procedures to ensure a qualified railroad employee inspects all equipment that an emergency responder has been on, under or between before the train can be left unattended.
  • Railroads must provide this EO to all affected employees.
 The Safety Advisory:

Who does it apply to?  Shippers (aka:  an offeror or person who offers) and carriers of hazardous materials by rail operating on the general system.

When does it go into affect?  No due date or deadline for implementation.  These are recommendations that FRA & PHMSA encourage railroad and hazardous material industry members to take action on.

Why are the FRA & PHMSA doing this?  To prevent train derailments and crashes caused by the unintended movement of HazMat railcars.

Where do these recommendations apply?  Since these recommendations apply to both shippers and carriers of Hazmat by rail, they should be considered during every phase of transportation of HazMat by rail within the US and Canada.

How can the FRA & PHMSA do this?  As administrations of the US Department of Transportation they have authority over all transportation by rail operating on the general system within the US.  And, in the case of the PHMSA, also have authority over the pre-transportation functions that take place prior to offering a Hazmat for transportation.

What are the recommendations of the Safety Advisory?

USDOT recommends that railroads:

  • Review the circumstances of the Lac-Mégantic accident with their employees.
  • Review their crew staffing practices for over-the-road trains that transport certain materials.  After the review, railroads should amend existing practices as necessary.
  • Amend the procedures adopted to comply with 49 CFR 232.103(n)(4).
  • Review existing measures in place to secure unattended equipment from movement to determine if it is appropriate.
  • Conduct system-wide evaluations to identify particular hazards which increase securement and other safety risks when trains may be left unattended.
  • Review the other requirements in Transport Canada’s  emergency directive and order and amend existing procedures accordingly.

USDOT also recommends:

  • Offerors evaluate their processes to ensure that HazMat are properly classed and described in compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).
  • Offerors and carriers review their safety and security plans to ensure they adequately address personnel security, unauthorized access, and en-route security.  Amend plans as necessary.

The transportation of hazardous materials, whether by highway, air, rail, or vessel is fraught with danger.  Let’s all do our part to ensure that an accident like that of Lac-Mégantic never happens again.