TSB and NTSB call on Canadian and U.S. regulators to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail
OTTAWA, Jan. 23, 2014
OTTAWA, Jan. 23, 2014 /CNW/ - In an unprecedented move, the
Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the U.S. National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today issued strong recommendations
to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail. The greater
risk of shipping increasingly more crude oil by rail across North
America demands coordinated solutions.
"In the course of our Lac-Mégantic investigation, we found three
critical weaknesses in the North American rail system which must be
urgently addressed," said Wendy Tadros, Chair of the TSB. "Today we are
making three recommendations calling for tougher standards for Class
111 tank cars; route planning and analysis, and emergency response
The TSB recommendations are addressed to Transport Canada, and in the
case of tank cars, also to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials
Safety Administration. The Board's first recommendation calls for
tougher standards for all Class 111 tank cars—not just new ones. In
Lac-Mégantic, the Board found that even at lower speeds, the older
unprotected Class 111 tank cars ruptured, releasing crude oil which
fuelled the fire.
The second recommendation calls for strategic route-planning, and safer
train operations for all trains carrying dangerous goods in Canada. The
TSB wants railways to carefully choose the routes on which oil and
other dangerous goods are to be carried, and to make sure train
operations over those routes will be safe.
For the third recommendation, the TSB would like to see emergency
response assistance plans (ERAPs) along routes where large volumes of
liquid hydrocarbons are being shipped. The right resources must be in
place to reduce the severity and impact of a spill or fire.
The amount of crude oil now being shipped by rail in North America is
staggering. According to the rail industry, in Canada in 2009, there
were only 500 carloads of crude oil shipped by rail; in 2013, there
were 160,000 carloads. In the U.S. in 2009, there were 10,800 carloads;
and in 2013, there were 400,000 carloads. And because North America's
railways are interconnected, the NTSB's recommendations complement
those issued by the TSB.
"If North American railways are to carry more and more of these
flammable liquids through our communities, it must be done safely,"
added Tadros. "Change must come and it must come now."
The ongoing Lac-Mégantic investigation remains a top priority for the
TSB. It is committed to releasing urgent safety information when
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline,
railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the
advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the
Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
RECOMMENDATIONS Rail accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) continues to investigate
the 6 July 2013 derailment and fire involving a freight train operated
by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
1. Vulnerability of Class 111 tank cars to sustain damage
Considering the susceptibility of Class 111 general-service tank cars to
product release during accidents, the large number of general-service
Class 111 cars remaining in service, and the increased movements of
large volumes of flammable liquids by rail through many Canadian and
American communities, the Board believes that further action is
Given the magnitude of the risks and given that tank car standards must
be set for the North American rail industry, the Board recommends that:
The Department of Transport and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials
Safety Administration require that all Class 111 tank cars used to
transport flammable liquids meet enhanced protection standards that
significantly reduce the risk of product loss when these cars are
involved in accidents.
2. Route planning and analysis for trains carrying dangerous goods
The Lac-Mégantic derailment and other recent rail accidents demonstrate
that, when accidents involving unit trains (or blocks of tank cars)
transporting large volumes of flammable materials occur, there is
significant risk for loss of life and damage to communities and the
Route planning and analysis involves a comprehensive system-wide review
of all operational changes, infrastructure modifications, traffic
adjustments, and other changes affecting the safety of train movements.
Additional safety benefits can be achieved when route planning and
analysis is complemented by tighter operating measures. These measures
can include a maximum allowable speed for trains carrying dangerous
goods and a minimum level for class of track.
Safety assessments and periodic risk assessments of potential routes
used for the transportation of dangerous goods will help ensure that
the route selected is the one presenting the fewest overall safety
risks. Therefore, the Board recommends that:
The Department of Transport set stringent criteria for the operation of
trains carrying dangerous goods, and require railway companies to
conduct route planning and analysis as well as perform periodic risk
assessments to ensure that risk control measures work.
3. Requirements for emergency response assistance plans
An Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) is required by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations for certain goods that pose a higher-than-average risk when transported
in certain quantities. When there is an accident, the handling of these
dangerous goods requires special expertise, resources, supplies and
equipment. Approved ERAPs would consistently ensure that first
responders have access, in a timely manner, to the required resources
and assistance in the event of an accident involving significant
quantities of flammable liquid hydrocarbons.
Given the significant increase in the quantities of crude oil being
transported by rail in Canada, and the potential for a large spill with
the risks it would pose to the public and the environment, the Board
recommends that, at a minimum:
The Department of Transport require emergency response assistance plans
for the transportation of large volumes of liquid hydrocarbons.
Under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act,federal ministers must formally respond to TSB recommendations and
explain how they have addressed or will address the safety
deficiencies. As of 23 January 2014, the Minister of Transport has 90 days to respond
to recommendations put forth in investigation R13D0054.