NPRM: Enhanced Tank Car Standards & Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains

Friday, August 1, 2014,    Department of Transportation

PHMSA, in coordination with the FRA, issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to amend the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) by proposing: (1) new operational requirements for certain trains transporting a large volume of Class 3 flammable liquids; (2) improvements in tank car standards; and (3) revision of the general requirements for offerors to ensure proper classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids.

The NPRM proposes enhanced tank car standards, a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids and new operational requirements for “high-hazard flammable trains” (HHFT) that include braking controls and speed restrictions. A HHFT would be defined as a train comprised of 20 or more carloads of a Class 3 flammable liquid.  The primary commodities impacted by this definition would be train shipments of ethanol and crude oil; because ethanol and crude oil are most frequently transported in high volume shipments, typically in trains with 20 or more cars.  Further, within two years, the NPRM proposes the phase out of the use of older DOT 111 tank cars for the shipment of packing group (PG) I flammable liquids, including most Bakken crude oil, unless the tank cars are retrofitted to comply with new tank car design standards.


Additional proposed revisions would require:

Better classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids.

• Written sampling and testing program for all mined gases and liquids, such as crude oil, to address:

(1) frequency of sampling and testing;

(2) sampling at various points along the supply chain;

(3) sampling methods that ensure a representative sample of the entire mixture;

(4) testing methods to enable complete analysis, classification, and

characterization of material;

(5) statistical justification for sample frequencies; and,

(6) duplicate samples for quality assurance, and

(7) require the offerer to certify that a program is in place, documenting the testing and

sampling program, and make program information available to DOT

personnel, upon request.


Rail routing risk assessment.

• Requires carriers to perform a routing analysis that considers 27 safety and security factors. The carrier would be required select a route based on findings of the route analysis. These planning requirements are prescribed in § 172.820 and would be expanded to apply to HHFTs.


Notification to State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs).

• Require trains containing one million gallons of Bakken crude oil to notify SERCs or other appropriate state delegated entity about the operation of these trains through their States.


Reduced operating speeds.

• Restrict all HHFTs to 50-mph in all areas

• Three speed restriction options for HHFTs that contain any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards proposed in this NPRM:

(1) a 40-mph maximum speed restriction in all areas;

(2) a 40-mph speed restriction in high threat urban areas5; and,

(3) a 40-mph speed restriction in areas with a 100K+ population.

• PHMSA is also requesting comment on a 30-mph speed restriction for HHFTs that do not comply with enhanced braking requirements.


Enhanced braking.

• Require all HHFTs be equipped with alternative brake signal propagation systems. Depending on the outcome of the tank car standard proposal and implementation timing, all HHFTs would be operated with either electronic controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP), a two-way end of train device (EOT), or distributed power (DP).


Enhanced standards for both new and existing tank cars.

• Require new tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015 (that are used to transport flammable liquids as part of a HHFT) to meet criteria for a selected option, including specific design requirements or performance criteria (e.g., thermal, top fittings, and bottom outlet protection; tank head and shell puncture resistance).  PHMSA is requesting comment on the following three options for the DOT Specification 117:  (1) FRA and PHMSA Designed Car, or equivalent; (2) AAR 2014 Tank Car,6 or equivalent; or (3) Jacketed CPC-12327, or equivalent.

• Require existing tank cars that are used to transport flammable liquids as part of a HHFT, to be retrofitted to meet the selected option for performance requirements, except for top fittings protection. Those not retrofitted would be retired, repurposed, or operated under speed restrictions for up to five years, based on packing group assignment of the lading.

Comments must be submitted to PHMSA by September 30, 2014.

 PP  45016-45079, Docket PHMSA-2012-0082 (HM-251), FR Doc. 2014-17764, Affecting 49 CFR Parts 171, 172, 173, 174, and 179


Del Billings

Technical Director