The Federal Railroad Administration ("FRA") has issued new train securement rules for trains left unattended on a mainline, siding, or rail yard carrying 20 or more crude or ethanol cars or trains carrying poison by inhalation hazardous materials1. The new rules are in response to the increase in crude oil shipments out of North Dakota as well as recent crude oil and ethanol train derailments including the 2013 Lac-Mégantic crude oil train derailment.

On July 6, 2013, an engineer for the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway ("MMA") parked a train carrying 72 tank cars loaded with petroleum crude oil on a main line and a descending grade of 1.2%.  The engineer secured the train by setting the independent brake, but not the automatic brake.  He then left the train unattended.  Not long after the engineer left the train, the local fire department and an MMA maintenance employee arrived to reports of a fire on the controlling locomotive.  The fire department extinguished the fire and the controlling locomotive was shut down, the fire fighters and the MMA maintenance employee left the train unaccompanied.  Several hours later, the train began rolling down the descending grade where it derailed near the center of the town of Lac-Mégantic.  The derailed train ignited the crude oil causing multiple explosions, 47 deaths, and contaminating the town with crude oil.

A month following the derailment, the FRA issued Emergency Order 28 to ensure that any trains carrying hazardous cargo are properly secured2.   This new rule codifies provisions of Emergency Order 28.  Any provisions not codified are no longer required by FRA.

The rule only permits leaving trains unattended on a main track or siding if:

  • Justified in a plan adopted by the railroad;
  • Accompanied by an appropriate job briefing of crewmembers responsible for train securement;
  • Securement must be completed by a qualified and trained railroad employee and confirmed by a second qualified and trained employee.

Additionally, the rule requires that each locomotive left unattended outside of a yard is equipped with an operative exterior locking mechanism, the train reverser is removed, air brakes are properly used and a sufficient number of handbrakes are set.

The rule revises Appendix A to Part 232 to provide a schedule of civil penalties which includes penalties for violations, and willful violations.  The FRA notes that penalties may be assessed against an individual only for a willful violation of these regulations.