PHMSA Denies Appeals to New Class 3 Rail Rules

Posted on 11/20/2015 by Roger Marks

In the November 18, 2015, Federal Register, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) officially responded to appeals from hazmat, chemical, and railroad industry groups regarding the May 2015 Final Rule to enhance tank car standards and operational controls for trains carrying Class 3 flammable liquids.

Click the link above to find out in the details of the Final Rule. Highlights include:
  • Defining two new types of trains: High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs) and High-Hazard Flammable Unit Trains (HHFUTs)
  • Restricting speed and requiring new braking technologies
  • Bolstering design requirements and performance criteria
  • New sampling, testing, and classification criteria for certain petroleum products   
Industry’s Concerns About New Class 3 Requirements

One major concern raised by industry groups is that shippers have little or no control over how the rail cars they offer are combined in a rail yard. A shipper may offer one tanker of crude oil, which does not trigger any additional braking or operational requirements. However, if this car is combined with many other cars carrying flammable liquids, it may trigger new requirements.

Therefore, at the time shippers offer the shipment, they have no way to know whether the tanker they use will be sufficient to ensure compliance. The only way to truly ensure compliance would be to either retrofit up to 40,000 existing DOT-111 specification tank cars to meet the new requirements or replace them with new, compliant DOT-117 tank cars, industry groups argued.

Groups like the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council, American Chemistry Council, Association of American Railroads, and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers all raised concerns, including the one detailed above. 

                                   rail car carries crude oil or Class 3 flammable liquid

PHMSA’s Response

In short, PHMSA disagrees with the points raised by industry groups, stating “[w]hile we respect the argument that both shippers and carriers of Class 3 flammable liquids by rail will face new challenges in the wake of these regulations, we maintain that they are capable of working together to comply with the requirements established by the Final Rule.”

PHMSA maintains that through “fleet management” rail yards can organize and combine rail cars in a way to maintain compliance with the provisions of the Final Rule.

Read PHMSA’s full denial of industry group’s appeals in the Federal Register.

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