Environmental Protection

Railroad Administration Sets Meeting on Exempted Hazmat Transport

The Feb. 22 public meeting in Washington, D.C., is part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s review of its steadily increasing approvals for the movement of damaged packages or leaking tank cars that are not in compliance with hazardous materials regulations.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) can approve railroads’ movement of bulk hazmat packages that don’t meet the hazardous materials regulations at 49 CFR parts 171-180. These are damaged packages, leaking tank cars, or any tank car not in compliance with the rules. FRA announced a Feb. 22 public meeting in Washington, D.C., will be part of its review of its approvals for such movements, which are steadily increasing.

FRA's Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety/Chief Safety Officer issued 380 approvals in 2007, 444 in 2008, 645 in 2009, and 906 in 2010 for a variety of problems: service equipment, tank shell, or lining failures; overloaded packagings; jacket, tank car shell, or head damage; stub sill weld cracks; failures of heater coils or thermal protection systems; tank cars overdue for required tests; and other reasons, according to the announcement.

The review is being conducted because the original goal was to make it clear that movements of non-conforming packages is prohibited, yet provide a way to allow bulk packages (including tank cars) that no longer meet their packaging specifications to be moved safely by rail when necessary to make corrective actions and repairs. FRA said it “believes a comprehensive review of its process will ensure the continued efficient handling of movement approval requests, while at the same time, ensuring that all relevant safety aspects of such requests are adequately considered.

The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. EST in the DOT Conference Center, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE. To speak or participate by teleconference, contact Karl Alexy, P.E., Engineer - Hazardous Materials, FRA Office of Safety Assurance and Compliance, at least four business days prior to the meeting at Karl.Alexy@dot.gov or 202.493.6245.

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