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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

AAR files appeal of USDOT's tank-car rule

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has filed an appeal with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to challenge its new tank-car rules, the association announced late last week.

"The new rule, while a good start, does not sufficiently advance safety and failed to fully address ongoing concerns of the freight rail industry and the general public," AAR officials said in a statement.

The association is urging the USDOT to close what it describes as a "gap in the rule that allows shippers to continue using tank cars not meeting new design specifications." The AAR is also hoping to remove the electronically controlled pneumatic braking system (ECP) requirement and "to enhance thermal protection by requiring a thermal blanket as part of new tank-car safety design standards."

Early last month, the USDOT released its final safety rule governing the transportation of flammable liquids by rail, primarily crude and ethanol. Developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration in coordination with Canada, the rule focuses on safety improvements designed to prevent crude-by-rail accidents, mitigate consequences if an accident occurs and support emergency-response efforts.

The rule stipulates that new tank cars built after Oct. 1 must meet design and performance requirements for a new USDOT-specified class of tank cars. Crude unit trains of 70 or more cars operating faster than 30 mph must feature an ECP brake system by Jan. 1, 2021.

In its prepared statement, AAR said its main concerns with the rule include the "lack of strengthened thermal protection, which fails to provide first responders adequate time to respond to an incident; the gap in the rule that allows shippers to still use unsafe tank cars as long as they move less than 20 cars in a block or a total of 35 cars on a train; and the mandating of ECP brakes, which is unproven technology that will not prevent derailments and will not provide meaningful overall safety benefits that our industry and the general public want."

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More News from 6/15/2015