Rail safety hearing focuses on crude oil, positive train control

Washington – A Feb. 26 House transportation subcommittee hearing brought together federal officials and industry representatives to discuss safety challenges facing the railroad industry, including transporting oil.

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) called for the hearing in response to recent North American train derailments and concerns about the flammability of crude oil being transported from the Bakken Formation. Concerns about the oil also resulted in the Department of Transportation recently releasing an emergency order that requires more stringent classification and packaging of the oil.

Cynthia L. Quarterman, administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, suggested at the hearing that new tank car standards for crude oil may be proposed sometime in 2014 but did not specify when they may be finalized.

The panelists also discussed the rail industry’s progress on installing an emergency braking technology known as positive train control. Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, stated that the industry will likely not meet its mandated 2015 deadline to install PTC due to the “unprecedented technological challenge” of developing and installing the systems.