Canada warns faulty rail wheels still in use

Thu Jun 5, 2008 7:34pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian safety inspectors warned North America's railroads on Thursday to find up to 12,000 freight car wheel sets that remain in use, despite having been recalled years ago for safety problems.

The wheel sets, made by Canadian National Railway between 1998 and 2001, have been blamed for at least 15 derailments in Canada and an unknown number of accidents in the United States, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Twelve of the Canadian derailments occurred after Canadian National discovered the problem, and the Association of American Railroads alerted other carriers that the defective wheel sets should be taken out of service.

Thursday's TSB warning stems from an investigation into a 2006 derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train in Buckskin, Ontario, that was caused by a broken CN-built wheel set on a CP freight car.

That wheel set was among some 43,800 produced by CN's Transcona shops between April 1998 and February 2001 using a process that made them susceptible becoming loose on curving track and derailing, the TSB said.

CN noticed a problem with loose wheels in 2000, but did not figure out the cause until 2001 and, along with AAR, warned carriers to remove the faulty wheel sets -- something that was supposed to have been completed by July 2006.

The TSB warned that "shortfalls" in the recall process meant some 25 percent of the faulty wheels sets are still rolling down North America's tracks.

"As a result, many wheel sets were permitted to remain in service, or, as in this occurrence, removed from the original car, reconditioned, and placed under a second car," the TSB report said.   Continued...