To increase the safety of crude oil and ethanol trains, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today issued a Final Rule establishing a new DOT-117 tank car standard and issued other new rail-related transportation rules. The new rules were issued jointly by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as part of a collaborative effort with Canada, which also issued new rules today.

The new DOT-117 tank car standard applies to all new tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015 for use in High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs), which are trains that include a block of at least 20 tank cars carrying a flammable liquid or at least 35 total tank cars carrying a flammable liquid. All tank cars built after October 1, 2015 for such service must meet the new design standard, which includes a 9/16-inch shell, 11-gauge jacket, 1/2-inch full-height head shield, thermal protection, and improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves.

Existing tank cars used in HHFTs must be retrofitted to enable continued use. The following table includes a summary of the retrofit requirements:

Please click here to view table.

* Shippers still using non-jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in HHFTs for Packing Group I as of January 1, 2017 trigger a reporting requirement and will need to report to DOT by March 1, 2017 the number of tank cars they own or lease that have been retrofitted and the number that have not yet been retrofitted.

Under the final rules, all HHFTs are restricted to speeds of no more than 50 mph. Additionally, HHFTs that contain any tank cars not yet meeting the new enhanced tank car standards are limited to 40 mph in high-threat urban areas.

The final rules also include enhanced braking requirements. HHFTs must use a functioning two-way End-of-Train Device or a distributed power braking system. By January 1, 2021, electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking will be required for all high-hazard flammable unit trains (HHFUTs) traveling in excess of 30 mph and carrying at least one tank car with a Packing Group I commodity. A HHFUT is a single train with 70 or more tank cars loaded with Hazard Class 3 flammable liquids. All other HHFUTs traveling in excess of 30 mph must use ECP brakes by May 1, 2023.

Additionally, railroads that operate HHFTs must perform a routing analysis that considers 27 safety and security factors, including track quality, maintenance, grade and curvature. Railroads must also provide state, local and tribal governments with a railroad point of contact for information related to hazardous materials routed through their jurisdictions.

Finally, shippers and others that “offer” unrefined petroleum-based products for transportation are required to develop and follow sampling and testing programs for all unrefined petroleum-based products, including crude oil. Offerors must document the test results, make the information available to DOT upon request and certify that covered hazardous materials are packaged in accordance with the test results.