Development of New Federal Design Standards for Hazardous Materials Tank Cars to Benefit from Public-Private Partnership

WASHINGTON — In a move designed to aid in the development of new federal design standards for stronger and safer hazardous materials tank cars, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is joining forces with rail and chemical industry leaders to create the tank car of the future, FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman announced.

“Our goal is to jump beyond incremental design changes,” Boardman said. “We and our partners are looking to apply the latest research and advanced technology to provide increased safety for rail shipments posing the greatest safety risk.”

Boardman also said the FRA is considering issuing new, more robust federal design standards for hazardous materials tank cars and hopes to issue a final rule in 2008.

Boardman said the FRA has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with Dow Chemical Company, Union Pacific Railroad and the Union Tank Car Company to participate in their Next Generation Rail Tank Car Project. The agreement provides for extensive information sharing and cooperation between ongoing FRA and industry research programs to improve the safety of rail shipments of hazardous commodities such as toxic inhalation hazards and high-risk gases and liquids.

Boardman stated FRA is focusing on strengthening the structural integrity of the tank car including the type of material and thickness of the outer shell and the type and design of the insulation material located between the outer shell and the inner tank that contains the hazardous material.

This is intended to reduce the probability that a collision, such as a side impact, will result in release of the hazardous commodity. In addition, FRA is evaluating technology such as pushback couplers, energy absorbers, and anti-climbing devices designed to prevent a derailment of the tank car by keeping it upright and on the tracks after an accident.

The MOC also supports FRA’s National Rail Safety Action Plan and its emphasis on promising research which has the potential to mitigate the greatest risks.

In addition, the FRA has held two public meetings in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to receive comment on the design and operation of hazardous materials tank cars and anticipates holding a third meeting in early 2007.

— Special to News Wire