US DOT is looking to increase safety of flammable materials sent by rail -- particularly crude oil and ethanol -- with the issuance of proposed rulemakings to enhance tank car standards, create a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids and develop new operational requirements for high-hazard flammable trains. The rulemakings are available for review and will be open for 60 days of public comment, ending on September 30, 2014.

Specifically, the rulemakings seek comment on the following provisions:

  • Defining the term “high-hazard flammable train” (HHFT).
  • Better classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids.
  • Rail routing risk assessment.
  • Notification to State Emergency Response Commissions.
  • Reduced operating speeds.
  • Enhanced braking.
  • Enhanced standards for both new and existing tank cars.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also released a report on Bakken crude oil, finding that it tends to be more volatile and flammable than other crude oils, presenting a potential transport safety risk.

More detailed information is available from the DOT.