Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DOT Reports on Flammable Railcar Fleet

Earlier this month the Department of Transportation (DOT) published their first report on the composition of the fleet of railcars used in the transportation of flammable liquids. This is one of the reports that was required to be prepared by DOD in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act, PL 114-94; 129 STAT 1599).

The data reflects changes in the composition of the railcar fleet used to transport flammable liquids in response to the phase out schedule requirement of §7304 the FAST Act (129 STAT 1596) for older and less safe DOT 111 and CPC 1234 railcars. Table 1 below shows the changes in fleet composition since 2013.

Table 1: Changes if Flammable Liquid Railcar Fleet

With two years left (since the end of the reporting period) in the required phaseout of the DOT 111 tank cars, it looks like the railroad industry is well on its way to meeting the congressional mandate. A large portion of change over took place before the congressional mandate was put into place in December of 2015. In 2013 the flammable liquid shippers started replacing the unjacketed DOT 111 cars in their fleet with jacketed DOT 111’s and CPC 1234. It was only in 2015 that those railcars started to be removed from flammable liquid transportation service.

Unfortunately, it does not seem as if this phase out is being accomplished by the introduction of new (or refurbished) railcars. It looks like this is being greatly influenced by a general decline in the number of railcars in flammable liquid service. Table 2 shows the changes in types of flammable liquids being transported by the entire fleet.

Table 2: Changes in Flammable Liquids Being Shipped

This table shows that the changes in the number of railcars in flammable liquid service is almost entirely due to the general decline in the number of shipments of crude oil and ethanol. Both of these commodities suffered severe declines in 2014 and 2015 due to the drastic fall in crude oil pricing. That pricing stabilized in 2016 and has been gradually increasing since then. The decline in the number of crude oil shipments has almost certainly also stabilized and is probably increasing.

This means that future declines in the number of DOT 111 and CPC 1234 tank cars being phased out of flammable liquid service can no longer be sustained by just the reductions in the railcar fleet. More DOT 117 railcars are going to have to be placed into service to replace those older railcars. This report does not address the disparity between the number of DOT 111 and CPC 1234 railcars still needing to be replaced and the rate at which new/refurbished DOT 117 railcars are being introduced.

NOTE: Thanks to ProgressiveRailroading.com for pointing to this ‘public’ report.

No comments:

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