Federal agencies Regulation Rail Transportation

PHMSA looks to expand emergency response requirements for high-hazard trains

Tank cars
Photo: PHMSA

Washington – The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration are accepting comment until Sept. 27 on a proposed rule that would expand the parameters for railroads to develop oil spill response plans for incidents involving high-hazard flammable trains.

The Department of Transportation defines a high-hazard flammable train as a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid, or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train. The proposed rule, which was published in the July 29 Federal Register, calls for railroads to issue comprehensive response plans for communities and first responders along affected train routes.

“We’ve taken more than 30 actions in the last two years to continue to address risk, and we continue to push the industry to do more to prevent derailments from happening,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a July 13 press release.

Other requirements included in the proposed rule:

  • Railroads must provide state emergency response commissions with a reasonable estimate of how many high-hazard flammable trains will travel each week through each county in the state.
  • Railroads must specify the routes HHFTs will travel.
  • Railroads must describe the materials being shipped and outline the appropriate emergency response information required by hazardous materials regulations.
  • Railroads must provide the name, address and phone number for at least one contact person in their organization.


“The substantial surge in our country’s production of crude oil is creating a serious need for improved response and communication between railroads and the communities through which they travel,” PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez said in the release.

To comment on the proposed rule, visit www.regulations.gov and enter “PHMSA-2014-0105 (HM-251B)” in the search bar.

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