PHMSA, FRA announce intent to repeal rule requiring ECP brakes on rail cars

train tanks
Photo: Satephoto/iStockphoto

Washington — The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration are moving to repeal a 2015 requirement for electronically controlled pneumatic brakes on rail cars that carry large volumes of flammable liquids, according to a notice published in the Dec. 13 Federal Register.

The requirement was mandated by Section 7311 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. However, PHMSA and FRA state that a Regulatory Impact Analysis revealed that the benefits of the ECP braking system requirement do not justify the costs. The analysis included audits by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board and the Government Accountability Office. TRB stated that it was unable to make a conclusive statement about the emergency performance of ECP brakes compared with other braking systems, while GAO made costs and benefits recommendations based on the current economic environment.

“This review demonstrated that the costs of this mandate would exceed threefold the benefits it would produce,” PHMSA stated in a Dec. 4 press release.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a press release that repealing the rule “puts sound science and careful study … over flawed guesswork used in 2015.”

In contrast, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) issued a statement Dec. 6 calling oil trains “rolling explosion hazards,” adding that, “as we’ve seen all too many times, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ oil train derailments will occur. Degrading oil train safety requirements is a huge step backward, and one that puts our land, homes and lives at risk.”

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