COSTHA Warns Congress of Impending Rail Shutdown

Posted on 10/6/2015 by Roger Marks

Update 10/29/15: This week, the US Congress approved a three week transportation funding patch that will buy legislators time to reach a longer term funding solution. As part of the three week funding patch, Congress extended the deadline for railroad operators to install Positive Train Control (PTC) until at least December 31, 2018. 

The Council on the Safe Transport of Hazardous Articles (COSTHA) has warned Congress that large segments of the US freight rail network could be shut down if the deadline to install new safety measures is not extended beyond December 31 of this year.

                          Rail industry awaits PTC rule

The letter to Congress is co-signed by a long list of farming groups, chemical manufacturers, petroleum companies, freight forwarders, rail carrier associations, and others in the regulated community. The letter makes it clear that rail carriers need more time to bring trains into compliance with the new Positive Train Control (PTC) system requirement before the December 31 deadline. Many railroads have informed customers that if the deadline is not extended, they will not be able to carry freight traffic in 2016.

The full letter to Congress is available on COSTHA’s website, here.

New Hazmat Rail Rules 

The PTC system requirement is part of the US DOT’s new rules for shipping hazmat by rail, promulgated in response to a rash of crude oil hazmat incidents in the US and Canada in recent years.

View a map of North American crude oil train derailments since 2013 here.

While these rules are designed to address hazardous materials shipped by rail, a rail system shutdown would obviously affect all freight shippers.

What Is Positive Train Control?

PTC is a technology capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements in the event that the operator or driver is unable or fails to do so.

By December 31, under the current rule, US DOT requires that PTC be implemented on Class I railroad main lines (i.e., those with over 5 million gross tons annually) over which any poison or toxic-by-inhalation materials are transported or on main lines that carry regularly scheduled passenger intercity or commuter operations. 

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, new rules

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