Federal agencies Rail

DOT final rule aims to improve oil-by-rail safety

train tracks

Photo: iStock/Thinkstock

Washington – A new era of rail safety has arrived, federal officials said after announcing a final rule aimed at strengthening standards for the transportation of crude oil and ethanol by rail.

The Department of Transportation said the final rule addresses several urgent recommendations released in early April by the National Transportation Safety Board. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration worked together to develop the rule, which was announced May 1. It includes four components:

  • Creates stringent standards for new tank cars; establishes a risk-based schedule for retrofitting older tank cars; and requires DOT-111 tank cars in “Packing Group I,” which includes most crude-by-rail operations, to be replaced within three years
  • Implements a new braking standard to reduce the risk of rail car pile-ups
  • Adds routing requirements, speed restrictions and improved communications strategies to inform local government agencies about oil-by-rail activity in their communities
  • Improves classification of transported products by adding sampling and testing requirements

“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rule, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a press release.