Replacement and Retrofit of Class 111 Tank Cars
200 Promenade du Portage
October 9, 2014
The Honourable Lisa Raitt
Minister of Transport
Place de Ville, Tower C
330 Sparks Street
In January 2014, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued a recommendation pertaining to Class 111 tank cars arising from its investigation into the Lac-Megantic train derailment. This recommendation called for:
"The Department of Transport and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration require that all Class 111 tank cars used to transport flammable liquids meet enhanced protection standards that significantly reduce the risk of product loss when these cars are involved in accidents."
In April 2014, you accepted the TSB recommendation and immediately prohibited the use of some older Class 111 tanks cars. You also indicated that Transport Canada (TC) would require all pre-CPC 1232 I TP 14877 tank cars used for the transportation of crude oil and ethanol to be phased out of service or retrofitted within 3 years. Furthermore, TC has committed to working with its U.S. counterpart to expeditiously define new standards for tank cars used to transport crude oil and ethanol products. Both TC and the U.S. Department of Transportation have since published proposed specifications for public consultation.
The TSB is encouraged by the safety actions taken to date to mitigate the risks and by the accelerated pace to develop new and improved standards for tank cars. In fact, the TSB was pleased to see you and your department take a leadership role, without waiting for the U.S. Government to act, to set a three year timeframe for the replacement and/or retrofit of tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol. We also noted that the TC proposals issued for consultation in July were both clearer and stronger than the proposals issued by the U.S. Government. We commend you for your strong leadership in this regard.
However, we noted a number of differences in the proposed specifications that were issued for public consultation in the U.S. and in Canada. For instance, the U.S. DOT has put forth three options for tank car specifications - each one achieving a different level of safety - and none exactly matching the Transport Canada proposal. We also note some important differences in the performance-based design requirements, as well as in the requirement for top fittings protection on retrofitted tank cars. The TSB believes that these differences must be addressed as it is important that federal regulations in both countries be harmonized to the greatest extent possible given that North America is an integrated market.
The TSB has recently learned that several industry associations have called upon the U.S. regulator to provide a longer transition period than originally proposed. A number of organizations are also advocating for a thinner shell thickness for the construction of new tank cars than what was contained in the U.S. regulator's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) package. The TSB is concerned that these representations could influence the U.S. regulator to take a step back and lower its requirements as it proceeds towards a final rule. This may in turn impact what is done in Canada due to the need for harmonization of requirements across the North American rail industry.
As you know, Canadians expect their Government to ensure that the risks associated with the transportation of crude oil are mitigated to the greatest extent possible. While the TSB appreciates the importance of consultation with industry stakeholders, governments need to make the right choices with respect to public safety and not give-ih in the face of industry push back to more stringent safety standards which have been derived through rigorous analysis and reliminary consultations with key stakeholders. The TSB therefore calls upon you to continue demonstrating strong leadership on this file. We ask that you intervene with your U.S. counterpart to ensure that regulatory agencies on both sides of the border adopt the highest possible standards for the construction of tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol, and that the replacement I retrofit of tank cars is done as soon as possible.
We look forward to hearing back from you on the progress achieved to date and the next steps to be taken to address this important safety issue.
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