AP analysis: DOT miscalculated when considering brake rule

Published: December 20, 2018

The Associated Press reported Dec. 20 that an analysis by the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) did not take into account up to $117 million in damage reductions when considering the repeal of a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rule requiring the installation of electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on tanker cars.

The DOT repealed the 2015 rule requiring the installation of the advanced braking system on DOT-117 tank cars that carry explosive fuels in late 2017.

AP reviewed federal documents and found that the damage estimates used by the DOT varied widely between the Obama administration, which enacted the ECP rule, and the Trump administration, which repealed the rule.

“Under Obama, the Transportation Department determined the brakes would cost up to $664 million over 20 years and save between $470 million and $1.1 billion from accidents that would be avoided,” the AP’s Matthew Brown wrote. “The Trump administration reduced the range of benefits to between $131 million and $374 million. Transportation department economists said in their analysis that the change was prompted in part by a reduction in oil train traffic in recent years, which meant there would be fewer derailments. But in making their calculations, they left out the most common type of derailments in which spilled and burning fuel causes property damage but no mass casualties …

“Department of Transportation officials acknowledged the mistake after it was discovered by the AP during a review of federal documents, but said it doesn’t change their decision not to install the brakes,” Brown wrote.

SMART Transportation Division supported the ECP brake rule for the safety benefits that would have been gained and in Nov. 2017 National Legislative Director John Risch made detailed comments to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in support of ECP braking technology.

The Association of American Railroads had lobbied for repeal of the rule since its 2015 inception.

Read the complete Associated Press story.