Canada's rail safety measures: earlier and tougher than U.S.

Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:40pm EDT
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By Solarina Ho and Randall Palmer

TORONTO/OTTAWA July 23 (Reuters) - Canada quietly issued new details on rail safety regulation last week that included specifications for the next generation of tank cars that are tougher than some of the options proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday.

The safety proposals by Transport Canada for hauling dangerous goods, released online on Friday, builds on measures first announced in April that will require older DOT-111 rail cars used for carrying crude oil be phased out by May 2017.

The measures are a response to a massive surge in crude-by-rail shipments in recent years and a string of high-profile disasters involving older tank cars prone to punctures, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec, Canada.

The additional information from Canadian regulators said new tank car standards, which they named TC-140, should have 9/16 inch (14.3 mm) steel thickness and mandatory electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

The next generation tank car would also require full head shields, as well as mandatory top fitting protection, bottom outlet valves, thermal protection and head and shell puncture resistance that must all exceed the current standards voluntarily adopted by the industry in 2011.

These measures were based on proposals by the industry and the Association of American Railroads (AAR), as well as through discussions with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), Transport Canada said.

They appear mostly in-line with only the most stringent of three proposals announced by U.S. regulators on Wednesday, and were tougher than the U.S. options that did not require ECP brakes or rollover protection.

"We're aware of the U.S. initiatives today. Their proposed action are in line with recent Transport Canada initiatives to strengthen the transportation of dangerous goods by rail," said Transport Canada spokeswoman, Maryse Durette, adding that it had shared its proposal with U.S. regulators.   Continued...