Monday, June 16, 2008

Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 6-06-08 Cont.

In my ongoing attempt to review all of the comments on the three railroad security and safety rules currently awaiting public comment, I was unable to get all of the comments posted by June 6th included in my blog posted on June 13th. The large number of comments and the length and detail of the comments made it impractical to get all of them included in that blog. I will finish up those comments in this entry instead of making my normal review of the comments filed by June 13th. With the cut off period for the PIH car regulation being set for Monday, I’ll save my last blog on that issue for the comments posted by Tuesday morning.

With that administrative stuff out of the way, here are the comment summaries for the last six commentators that were posted by June 6th.


  • TrinityRail is a manufacturer and leaser of rail cars.
  • TrinityRail suggests that it is possible that the design proposed in this rule is too narrowly drawn and may increase the hazard of release from forms of impact other than those specified in the rule.
  • TrinityRail recommends that the rule adopts interim design standards capable of being produced today that will allow for fleet modernization while the proposed design is developed, produced and tested.
  • TrinityRail suggests that some tank car manufacturers will exit the PIH car market rather than risk the cost of a development effort that may not meet the performance specifications in the rule.
  • TrinityRail suggests that it would be appropriate to address both security and safety protection measures in a single rule.
  • TrinityRail suggests that the economic analysis fails to take into account development and manufacturing costs for the new design.

BNSF Railway Company

  • BNSF believes that this rule should also address the safety of top fittings on rail cars.
  • BNSF believes that the range of impacts covered in the standards should be more reflective of the range of impacts found in actual accidents.

Arkema, Inc.

  • Arkema is a producer and shipper of methyl mercaptan.
  • Arkema believes that the chlorine based design required in the rule is not appropriate for other PIH material, like methyl mercaptan, due to the different physical and chemical properties of the material.
  • Arkema believes that rail car manufacturers will concentrate on the development of high volume cars like chlorine, making it impossible for the industry to produce a methyl mercaptan car in the time specified for fleet replacement.

Association of American Railroads

  • The AAR questions the DOT use of just a single accident-release scenario in it current design specification.
  • The AAR believes that DOT has underestimated the Comparative Puncture Resistance (CPR) of the CPC-1187 design.
  • The AAR believes that DOT has underestimated the potential importance of ‘Top Fitting’ related chemical releases in their design.
  • The AAR suggests that DOT should grandfather cars meeting the CPC-1187 design in this rule to allow the industry to upgrade their TIH fleets while the development of the new DOT standard railcar proceeds.
  • The AAR believes that DOT has failed to justify the 30 mph speed restriction in their proposed rule.
  • The AAR believes that the risk of significant release from residue shipment cars is so low as to make their inclusion in either speed limit rule unnecessary.

The Dow Chemical Company

  • Dow encourages DOT to coordinate with DHS so that both security and safety enhancements to railcars can be included in a single rule.
  • Dow believes that the railcar standards called for in the rule are overly optimistic, in that there is no current design in the works that is capable of meeting the design requirements in the rule.
  • Dow believes that the replacement schedule in the rule will force shippers to transfer some shipments to truck due to the inability to update their rail fleet until a new car meeting the standards in the rule becomesavailable.
  • Dow suggests that DOT implement an interim final rule allowing for the use of the highest standard, currently available railcar to update the current fleet while a newer achievable standard is being developed. That rule would have to allow for a reasonable fleet life for the interim cars.
  • Dow believes that the rule should include a testing protocol based on an evaluation of multiple accident scenarios and real world data.
  • Dow suggests that retrofit solutions to increase railcar safety should be allowed in the rule.

The Chlorine Institute, Inc.

  • The Chlorine Institute believes that this rule should not be made final until there is a design available to meet the specifications included in the rule.
  • The Chlorine Institute was able to provide limited information that indicated there were a significant number of shipper or receiver facilities that could not handle the higher weight cars proposed. This would result in the need for light loadings and increased PIH shipments.
  • The Chlorine Institute is concerned that the design verification procedures are not adequately designed.
  • The Chlorine Institute suggests that a service trial period be required before such a radical change in design is approved.
  • The Chlorine Institute is concerned that there are no provisions in the rule for a separate development process for a rail car to transport anhydrous hydrogen chloride.
  • The Chlorine Institute notes that the cost benefit analysis assumes that retired PIH cars would be shunted to other service. Chlorine cars, 40% of all PIH cars, cannot be put into other service economically.
  • The Chlorine Institute suggests that an interim design be approved to allow for modernization of the current fleet while the new car is designed, tested, and produced.
  • The Chlorine Institute suggests that the chlorine industry will need 600 to 700 new rail cars for its fleet in the next three years.
  • The Chlorine Institute provided a detailed report on development of a methodology to evaluate puncture resistance for railroad tank cars.


It is unusual for so many commenters to agree on two major points. In this case reading the large number of comments on this proposed rule we find that shippers, car manufacturers, fleet managers, and railroad agree on two major areas:

  1. There is no design currently available or in development that will be able to meet the performance specifications set forth in this rule within the next two years. Most commenters believe that it will take significantly longer (up to ten years has been suggested by a variety of comments). A significant number question if a useable car can be produced that will meet these specifications.
  2. The fleet replacement schedule called for in the rule is of questionable usefulness if a two year design/production schedule can be met. For a more realistic development schedule this replacement schedule will result in a drastic down sizing of the fleet. This will result in many shipments being shifted to truck transport, where available, or elimination of shipping capability.

What is interesting is that none of the commenters has suggested the complete scrapping of the performance standard (except that TrinityRail suggests that the standard does not meet the legal requirements mandated by Congress). Most suggest that an interim standard be adopted that would allow the continued production of the higher-safety versions of current PIH railcars while the development of a car meeting the proposed performance standards can be designed, developed, tested and produced.

It only seems reasonable that older, less-safe railcars be replaced with safer cars on a regular basis, even if the new design can be fielded within two years. If the development takes longer than two years then this fleet updating will be even more important.

All of the commenters has been careful to congratulate the PHMSA and FRA for undertaking such a far reaching attempt to increase the safety of PIH shipments. I disagree. From the comments that I have read to date it seems that this rule is the worst kind of executive branch grandstanding. The rule sets a very high, perhaps unachievable standard, and then charges industry with meeting the standard. At the end of the day the lack of real safety improvement will be blamed on industry not trying hard enough.

The law of unforeseen consequences causes more than enough problems for people trying to do the right thing. In this instance it is the case of the ignored consequences by bureaucrats trying to pass the buck that could have an even higher cost to society.

Administrative Note

I will download the ‘last’ comments for this rule late on June 16th or the 17th. I intend to get the review out by the end of the week. If there are too many comments to get to by then, I’ll do like I did on this last batch and split it into two or more blog entries.

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