Federal agencies Legislation Rail

Proposed rule seeks safer rail shipping of flammable materials

Washington – The Department of Transportation has announced a notice of proposed rulemaking intended to improve safe rail transportation of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable materials.

The NPRM is based on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking issued in September by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It seeks to phase out the use of older, non-retrofitted DOT 111 tank cars when shipping Packing Group I flammable liquids. Most crude oil is included in that category, according to DOT officials.

Meanwhile, the NPRM offers three options for improving tank car design with features such as thicker shells more resistant to punctures, enhanced braking and rollover protection. Other details in the proposal include higher standards for classifying and testing mined gases and liquids, as well as new operational requirements for “high-hazard flammable trains” (trains carrying 20 or more tank carloads of flammable liquids).

In addition to the NPRM, the agency issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks more information about expanding planning requirements for oil spill responses related to rail shipment of flammable materials.

A sharp increase in U.S. oil production and transportation in recent years has prompted concerns about rail safety.