PHMSA tankcar rule
for hazmat protection
Jan 14, 2009 12:56 PM
A final rule has been issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to improve the crashworthiness of railroad tankcars used to transport hazardous materials, according to an announcement by Mary E Peters, Department of Transportation Secretary.
"Strengthening rail hazmat tankcars will reduce the risk of spills and increase public safety should a train accident occur," Peters said. She added that the final rule is focused on poison inhalation hazard (PIH) materials like chlorine and anhydrous ammonia heavily used in water treatment, agricultural, and industrial applications.
The final rule requires PIH tankcars to have better puncture resistance from a side impact with a combination of thicker inner shells where the hazmat is held and/or thicker outer jackets depending on the specific hazmat being transported. In addition, each end of the tankcar is to be protected with a full head shield where not already mandated by existing regulations and strengthened valves, top fittings and nozzles used to load and unload the tankcar are required to prevent a release in a rollover accident.
The new rule also imposes a 50 mph maximum speed restriction on all loaded PIH tankcars and allows for an increase in the gross weight of the tankcar to accommodate the enhanced safety measures. It requires tankcar owners to prioritize the retirement or replacement of older tankcars used in PIH service which were built prior to 1989 with non-normalized steel that may not adequately resist the development of fractures.
Peters said adoption of the interim design standards will ensure the ongoing availability of PIH tankcars with improved safety while DOT completes longer-term research, testing, and validation of advanced tankcar designs for a more stringent performance-based standard to further increase rail hazmat tankcar crashworthiness.
The final rule was issued in close consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration following a broad and multi-faceted review of virtually all aspects of rail tankcar safety. It applies to PIH tankcars built on or after March 16, 2009.
Peters noted that in June 2008, a new rail hazmat routing rule took effect requiring railroads to rigorously analyze and then select the route with the fewest overall safety and security risks. The hazmat routing rule, combined with the hazmat tankcar rule, provides enhanced protection for people living in both large cities and small towns, she said.
The latest rule can be found online in the Federal Register.
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