Environmental Protection

DOT Rule Requires HazMat Tank Cars to Use Safest Routes

Railroads will be required to route every train carrying the most toxic and dangerous hazardous materials on the safest and most secure route under a new federal rule announced April 16 by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters.

"This strong measure better ensures that rail shipments of hazardous materials will reach their final destinations safely and without incident," said Peters, noting the rule applies to trains hauling Poison Inhalation Hazard (PIH) commodities such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia which are heavily used in farming, water purification, and manufacturing.

Beginning June 1, the rule requires railroads to conduct a comprehensive safety and security risk analysis of its primary route and any practicable alternative routes over which it has authority to operate.The analysis must consider information provided by local communities and a minimum of 27 risk factors like trip length, volume, and type of hazmat being moved, existing safety measures along the route, and population density, she said.Railroads must implement their routing decisions based on these analyses by September 2009.

In addition, the rule includes several rail security provisions designed to guard against tampering with the rail hazmat car during transportation, Peters said.

The new rule complements last month's proposal to increase by 500 percent on average the amount of energy a rail hazmat tank car must absorb during a train accident before a catastrophic failure occurs, Peters said.This dramatic improvement in puncture resistance can be achieved with innovative designs, materials, and technologies and in combination with speed restrictions, she said.

The interim final rule on rail hazmat routing was developed by the department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration, and fully complies with the provisions of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.

For more information, visit http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/PubAffairs/RailHazmatRoutingIFRBackgrounder041608.pdf .

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