FRA_logo_words WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will help protect communities from crude oil and hazardous materials incidents by strengthening requirements for securing unattended freight trains. The proposed rule codifies many of the requirements included in Emergency Order 28, which the FRA issued in August 2013 following the Lac-Megantic accident and strengthens existing regulations for railroad cars containing certain hazardous materials.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s action is only the latest in more than two dozen steps we have taken in the last year to further safeguard communities along train routes that carry crude oil and other flammable liquids.

The new measures proposed in the NPRM would require railroads to:

Prevent trains or vehicles transporting specified hazardous materials from being left unattended on a mainline track or side track outside a yard, unless specific securement requirements are followed.Develop a plan identifying such locations or circumstances.Verify securement by qualified persons; and ensure that locks on locomotive cab are secure. Include securement requirements in job briefings.Perform additional inspections by qualified persons when emergency responders have been on equipment.Install locking mechanisms on locomotive doors and repair them in a timely manner.

The rule covers equipment containing poisonous by inhalation (PIH) materials and those defined as Division 2.1 (flammable gas), Class 3 (flammable or combustible liquid), Class 1.1 or 1.2 (explosive) materials, or a hazardous substance listed in 49 CFR 173.31(f)(2). This includes most crude oil moved in the United States.

“While our existing securement regulations have been largely successful, it’s important in light of events over the past year that we take additional steps to mitigate risk here in the United States,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “This rulemaking will solidify our existing securement regulations and provide additional safeguards against the rolling of unattended freight trains, especially those carrying hazardous materials.”

The NPRM is the result of collaborative effort between the industry and other stakeholders who formed a working group to review securement rules, practices and operating procedures over the last year. The working group, convened through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee in August 2013, submitted its final recommendations for a proposed rule to the FRA in April 2014. The Department has also continued to collaborate with Canada.

The Department of Transportation, the FRA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have taken more than two dozen actions as part of a comprehensive approach to ensure that the safe transport of hazardous materials by rail is preserved and enhanced. Over the last year, they have issued emergency orders and safety advisories, conducted special inspections such as Operation Classification, and brought together railroad companies and the oil industry to reach an agreement on a series of immediate actions they can take to improve safety including reducing speeds, increasing inspections, using new brake technology, developing improved sampling and testing plans, and investing in first responder training. Additionally, they have issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for a comprehensive rulemaking package regarding the safe transportation of crude oil and plan to announce a proposed rule to address train crew size.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have issued a safety advisory to reinforce to railroads the importance of properly classifying Class 3 materials and ensuring the railroads’ safety and security plans address the vulnerabilities cited in FRA’s Aug. 7 Emergency Order No. 28. That order told the railroads to take steps within 30 days to ensure trains moving hazardous materials do not move while unattended and possibly cause a disaster similar to the July 6, 2013, derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada.

Class 3 materials are flammable and combustible liquids. To move a large bulk quantity (792 gallons – 3,000 liters – or more), railroads must develop and adhere to a transportation safety and security plan that covers personnel security, unauthorized access, and en route security.

The new advisory says FRA and PHMSA are working together on audits to make sure the safety and security plans address the vulnerabilities cited in the emergency order, and also that PMHSA is making unannounced inspections and testing to verify material classification and packing group assignments by offerors of crude oil for transport.

The two DOT agencies also issued a joint safety advisory on Aug. 7.

The Lac-Mégantic explosion and fire killed 42 people, with five more presumed dead, and extensively damaged the town. “While the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is still investigating the cause of the Lac-Mégantic accident, the catastrophic consequences of the accident and the known increase over the last several years in the rail transportation of Class 3 hazardous materials has made clear the need to review existing regulations and industry practices related to such transportation,” the new advisory states. “PHMSA and FRA have worked closely to take a number of actions intended to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the United States and the agencies will continue to do so.”

To read the complete Safety Advisory 2013-07 as published in the Federal Register, click here.

FRA_logo_words WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) met today in an emergency session to begin consideration of additional regulatory or other safety measures following the derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada earlier this summer.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While 2012 was the safest year in rail history, we are constantly reviewing our work to ensure the public’s safety on our nation’s rails and value the important input we are receiving from industry stakeholders.”

The RSAC is a technical and policy stakeholder advisory group that makes recommendations to the FRA on rail safety issues, and includes representatives from every facet of the rail industry. The issues discussed at the meeting included the safety requirements contained in FRA Emergency Order No. 28 (EO 28) and the recommendations made in Safety Advisory 2013–06, both issued on Aug. 2.

EO 28 is a mandatory directive to railroads requiring them to undertake a number of immediate actions to ensure that trains transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) are secured and not left unattended. The directive also includes communication requirements. Failure to comply with the emergency order requirements will result in enforcement action.

The safety advisory contains recommendations issued jointly by FRA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to railroads and hazmat shippers, including requiring railroads to review their crew staffing requirements for transporting hazardous material, conduct system-wide evaluations to identify hazards that may make it more difficult to secure a train or pose other safety risks, and develop procedures to reduce those risks. The advisory served as the agenda for today’s meeting. The implications as well as potential costs and benefits of new or expanded safety requirements and initiatives, including possible new RSAC tasks to implement them, were also discussed.

“Today’s meeting brings together some of the best and brightest minds our industry has to offer in order to tackle issues of paramount importance,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The dialogue will serve to build upon the comprehensive regulatory framework we already have in place, and allow us to further enhance safety by eliminating additional risk from the railroad system.”

During the meeting, RSAC members voted to accept four task statements on: appropriate train crew size; requirements for the securement of trains; operational testing for employees to ensure appropriate processes and procedures for securing trains are followed; and hazardous materials issues relating to the identification, classification, operational control and handling of such shipments in transportation. The RSAC will now establish working groups with the necessary expertise to examine each task, gather relevant facts, and develop a range of options. The recommendations of those working groups will be presented to the RSAC by April 2014.

“As greater quantities of hazmat are transported by rail and other modes, the risks increase and we have to make sure our regulations are keeping pace with market and technology forces,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “We have to work together to identify gaps, be willing to acknowledge them and close them.”

Under current U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, freight railroads are required to undertake safety and security risk assessments and implement procedures in order to transport certain hazardous materials, including creating a plan to prevent unauthorized access to rail yards, facilities, and trains carrying hazardous materials. Railroads that carry hazardous materials are required to follow established protocols while en route, and railroad employees are subject to background checks and must complete training. Railroad training programs and operating practices are reviewed and audited by the FRA routinely and are generally designed to be progressive so that as the level of risk increases, so does the level of safety and security required.

FRA_logo_words The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a guidance memorandum for Emergency Order 28, which seeks to prevent trains operating on mainline tracks or sidings from moving unintentionally.

The memorandum has been sent to all Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) members and alternates.

Hardcopies will be provided at the emergency RSAC meeting scheduled for Aug. 29 and a detailed presentation on the safety advisory, Emergency Order 28 and this guidance document are on the agenda.

To view the guidance memorandum, click here.