Other correspondence

Replacement and Retrofit of Class 111 Tank Cars

200 Promenade du Portage
4th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1K8


October 9, 2014

Mr. Timothy P. Butters
Acting Administrator
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
East Building Second Floor
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC
United States of America

Dear Mr. Butters:

Re: Replacement and Retrofit of Class 111 Tank Cars

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 Joss when these cars are involved in accidents."
(TSB R14-01)

In 2012, following the Cherry Valley, Illinois investigation, the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had issued a similar recommendation calling upon the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to:

"Require that all newly manufactured and existing general service cars authorized for the transportation of denatured fuel ethanol and crude oil in Packing Groups I and II have enhanced tank head and shell punctureresistance systems and top fittings protection that exceeds existing design requirements for DOT-111 tank cars."
(NTSB; R-12-5)

Since then, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued notices of proposed rulemaking describing a comprehensive approach to rail safety to improve tank car integrity, as well as to provide additional operational controls, to enhance emergency response, and to establish methods to improve the classification and characterization of hazardous materials. Through collaboration in the United States- Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, PHMSA and the FRA have been working closely with Transport Canada on a number of hazardous materials transportation issues, including the development of enhanced protection standards for tank cars. Specific proposals in this regard were recently issued for public consultation.

The TSB is encouraged by the safety actions taken to date, including the specific measures taken in response to the safety recommendations issued by the TSB and the NTSB in January 2014. The TSB also notes favourably the close cooperation between Canada and the United States to address this issue. 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 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 organizations have called upon the DOT 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 DOT's notice of proposed rulemaking. The TSB is concerned that these representations could influence the DOT 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, citizens 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-in in the face of industry push back to more stringent safety standards which have been derived through rigorous analysis and preliminary consultations with key stakeholders. The TSB therefore calls upon you to continue demonstrating strong leadership on this file. We ask that PHMSA and FRA officials work together with their Canadian counterparts at Transport Canada, 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 replacemenUretrofit of tank cars is done as soon as practicable.

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.


Original signed by

Kathleen Fox

Joseph C. Szabo, Federal Railway Administration
Christopher A. Hart, National Transportation Safety Board
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport