On Tuesday, representatives for the rail industry explained to investigators with the federal government they need government guidance on how to improve the safety of tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol across the US. They want to avoid getting penalized for improvements that don’t meet federal requirements. The US Transportation Department is currently creating new requirements for tankers. Thousands of tank cars were built with end caps, insulating jackets, along with other safety requirements that are more strict than current requirements in the US. The changes were adopted voluntarily in October of 2011, and by the end of next year, rail officials expect 55,000 of the CPC-1232 tank cars to go into service by the end of next year. Many aren’t sure how the tank cars will be treated, however. In testimony before the National Transportation Safety Board, the vice chairman for the Railway Supply Institute Committee for Tank Cars said they improved their cars to the new standard, although they aren’t certain about the final design as of now. The trade group represents tank car manufacturers and suppliers and they refuse to make any more improvements without a discussion among US and Canadian regulators concerning the final regulations. The industry is concerned any new changes by the government will make their updates and any investments obsolete.
During the first couple days of a hearing by the NTSB, new tank car designs were criticized. The hearing analyzed the increasing ethanol and oil cargoes across the country’s train tracks which are heading to ports, refineries along with other facilities. Railroads are increasing where oil pipelines don’t exist in order to transport crude oil from North Dakota and Alberta to coastal refineries, totaling approximately 400,000 carloads in 2013 from 9,500 in 2008. The increase in oil-carrying trains increased criticism by state officials because they were concerned about accidents in their regions. Four agencies in New York will deliver a report to the Governor concerning the state’s ability to handle oil spills from barges, ships, and trains. A safety board chairwoman said 16 rail accidents since 2006 involve tankers which were loaded with oil and ethanol. The chairwoman said it is important that rain industry regulators make sure they are safely transported. Legacy train cars are prone to breaking during accidents, for example. Regulations currently govern wall thickness, but investigators say there are other vulnerable areas that could lead to fires if compromised, according to news reports.