The Associated Press reported last week that inspections of 58,000 miles of oil train routes across forty-four states turned up 24,000 “imperfections” in the rail freight network.
These issues are especially concerning to oil and gas shippers; crude oil shipments on Class 1 railroads increased from 10,800 to 400,000+ between 2009 and 2015. While that number has declined a bit since, rail transport remains a major challenge for crude oil shippers. See AP’s original story in the Omaha World-Herald.
“Imperfections” like defective or missing track fasteners, loose or broken bolts, and cracked steel have been named as causes for a number of crude oil incidents over the past few years.
New Rules for Crude Oil Rail Shippers
The rising number of train derailments involving shipments of crude oil led US DOT in 2015 to develop bolstered standards for shippers of Class 3 flammable liquids and railroads
. Among the new rules were more demanding designs and performance criteria for rail tanks, enhanced braking requirements, speed restrictions, and new routing requirements for trains carrying crude oil.
The Federal Rail Administration (FRA) also created new regulations to address the crude oil derailment problem. Published in July 2015, FRA’s Final Rule included new rules for securing stationary hazmat trains to prevent roll-aways.
Map of Crude Oil Rail Incidents, 2013-Present
Additionally, FRA raised its civil penalties
for rail safety compliance violations, including Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) violations and failure to provide hazmat training. The maximum civil penalty for a standard hazmat violation is now $78,376 per day, per violation. For aggravated violations—those that result in death, serious illness, or substantial destruction of property—the maximum fine is now $182,827 per day, per violation.
More recently, in January 2017, US DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) began work to create new rules to set vapor pressure limits for crude oil and other Class 3 hazardous materials
. Limiting vapor pressure, DOT believes, may reduce the risk of catastrophic damage due to fire and explosions that often accompany derailments of crude oil tank cars.
Convenient DOT Hazmat Training for Rail Shippers
If you are responsible for loading, unloading, and transloading tank cars, or if you ship, carry, or receive hazmat by rail, keep up to date with these rules and more with Lion’s new Hazmat Ground Shipper—Additional Rail Requirements
online course. Designed to meet DOT’s function-specific hazmat training, the course covers critical 49 CFR rules for shipping hazmat by tank car, freight container, IBC, and bulk or non-bulk packages by rail.