Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-23-08

There are currently three rules recently published in the Federal Register dealing with the security and safety of rail transportation of various hazardous chemicals. All three rules are in the comment period. Generally speaking the comments made on each of these rules are posted on the web site. The last review was posted on 5-19-08 (see: "Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-16-08").

PIH Tank Car Rule

Comments are to be submitted by June 2, 2008. Comments were received from:

US Magnesium

    • Noted that their Rowley, UT plant produced chlorine as a byproduct of the manufacture of magnesium; the only US magnesium production facility.
    • Note that current research by the Next Generation Rail Car Coordination Panel supports a 25 mph puncture resistance standard within the next three years, but no research currently supports the 30 mph standard.
    • Does not believe that it will be possible to replace the 3600 non-normalized steel cars currently in service on the timetable provided in the rule.
    • Believes that the rule should require retrofitting the mandated thermal protection system on existing cars.
    • Disagrees with the financial impact expected for implementing the rule. They claim that all chlorine railcars will have to be replaced at an estimated cost of $1.2 Billion not the $350 Million shown for all PIH railcars.

Congressman Pete Sessions (D, TX)

    • Notes that the industry already has a safer (than railcars currently in service) PIH railcar design available (CPC-1187). The current rule making effectively stops the production of this safer car while the rule making process continues. Urges that this car design be allowed as an interim measure while the rule making progresses and the required development of a new cars takes place.

Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, CA

    • Noted that heavier railcars would do more damage to other railcars and surrounding structures in the event of a collision or derailment.
    • Noted that the newly designed cars should provide ballistic protection as well as collision protection

Route Security Analysis Rule

Comments were to be submitted by May 16, 2008. A significant number of comments were added after that date. Comments were received from:

Norfolk Southern Corporation

  • Supports the rule’s assignment of responsibility for route determination to the railroads.
  • Supports the rule’s preemption provisions.
  • Proposes that the rule require that each State provide a single point of contact for providing the information required in the rule. Lacking that, the rule should allow for a web site based system where the individual state and local agencies could provide the required information.
  • Proposes that the railroads should have the final say on their use of their property to storage of hazmat chemicals enroute and not have to consult with shippers and consignors.

Association of American Railroads

  • Recommend that a 15 shipment threshold be set for routes requiring analysis.
  • Recommend that PHMSA consider rulemaking for requiring that ‘essentially all’ TIH chemicals are removed from railcars prior to return shipment.
  • Disagrees with the special route analysis deadline for the first year. The early deadline does not make sense since this initial analysis will be the most difficult.
  • Notes that DHS has yet to notify any railroad of the existence of high-consequence targets near any railroad, despite numerous requests from AAR. This needs to be rectified before the requirements in this rule can be met.
  • Notes that it is not practical to determine what agencies might be contacted for security information along all 140,000 miles of railroad right-of-way. Suggests that a State agency be used for all contacts within that State.
  • Request that PHMSA defines ‘subpopulations’ that railroads are supposed ‘consider’ in their risk analysis.
  • AAR already recommends to its member railroads that they share security information with ‘bona fide emergency response agencies’ providing, at a minimum, "the top 25 hazardous commodities transported through the community in rank order".
  • AAR would like the SSI information classification provisions specified in the regulation to also specifically include provisions to prohibit disclosure by government agencies and contractors.


  • AAR would like provisions pertaining to consultation with ‘offerors and consignees’ about enroute storage to be revised to allow railroads to minimize storage on railroad property by making prompt deliveries in consultation with consignees, but not allowing a consignee veto over delivery times.

PPG Industries

  • PPG would like to see more cooperation between rail carriers required in the regulation to select the safest, most secure route regardless of carrier boundaries.
  • PPG wants assurances that the requirements for conducting a route analysis cannot be used by railroads to avoid their common carrier responsibilities in providing shipments to new customers or producers outside of existing routes.

BNSF Railway Company

  • BNSF suggests that the PHMSA should have responsibility for directing approved routings for Hazmat shipments, or lacking that, PHMSA should be responsible for reviewing and approving railroad proposed routes.
  • BNSF wants PHMSA to provide better explanations and details concerning the ’27 Factors’ that should be taken into account when analyzing routes for hazmat shipments. That specifically includes weighting factors.


It is interesting to read the three new comments on the PIH Tank Car standard; a chlorine producer, a congressman, and a local government legislative body; this provides a wide range of outlooks on this important rule. The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors brings out an important point with regards to ballistic protection for a PIH Tank Car. This is the first time that I have heard this point mentioned. It deserves a separate blog in the near future.

The comments from Congressman Sessions and US Magnesium make it look like this rule may be premature. The rule makes it seem that the railcar design specified is nearly ready for production; just lacking the approval of this rule to move forward. These two comments make it seem like that production is years away, at a minimum. This would appear to require some interim arrangement to keep relatively safe railcars carrying PIH and getting the older cars off the lines.

The range of Commenters providing ‘late’ comments on the route analysis rule is not quite as wide as seen in the PIH Tank Car rule comments. Three railroad representatives and a supplier would not seem to be much of a range of comments. Reading the comments shows that there is an unexpected divergence of recommendations.

The comments from BNSF Railway Company suggesting that the Federal Government should be the responsible entity in selecting/approving rail routes seems to be surprising. It certainly runs counter to the official line from the Association of American Railroads. A little more thought applied to the problem, though, indicates that this may be a more reasonable position for the railroads to take.

Currently railroads are required to accept all ‘properly packaged’ hazmat shipments as part of their ‘common carrier’ responsibilities. Historically, the railroads have born the lions share of the liability for accidental release/discharge of those chemicals enroute. This can be a very costly liability. If route selection responsibility rests with the FRA or PHMSA some of that liability is transferred to that responsible agency.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */