Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its final rule for rail shipments of flammable liquids. The rule calls for enhanced safety standards for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFT), including stricter tank car construction standards, the phasing out of older tank car models, the use of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP), and will make permanent previously announced speed restrictions.
John Risch, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director, welcomed DOT’s final rule, specifically applauding the mandate of ECP brakes: “This is a game changer. I’ve operated trains with ECP brakes, and they are the greatest advancement in safety I’ve seen in my 35 years in the industry.”
According to a 2006 FRA report, ECP brakes can stop trains 40-70% faster than conventional train brakes and allow for a graduated release, which is vital to the safe handling of trains in cold weather and on heavy grades. ECP brakes will save the lives of railroad workers and better protect the millions of Americans living near rail lines.” The DOT’s ECP mandates must be fully complied with by May 2023.
Additionally, Risch expressed relief that the rule does not unreasonably restrict train speeds, something that would add to traffic congestion and further delay passenger rail service. The rule will restrict all HHFTs to 50 mph in all areas and restrict certain HHFTs to 40 mph in designated high-risk urban areas.
“While this rule will go a long way towards ensuring the safety of our nation’s railroads, more can be done. We now urge the DOT and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to ensure that all freight trains are operated by a minimum of two individuals – a certified conductor and certified engineer,” said Risch.