The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration has issued an emergency order and safety advisory to prevent unattended railcars from moving unintentionally.
The order, which results in enforcement actions if railroads fail to comply, specifies that cars transporting hazardous materials can’t be left alone on mainline tracks. The administration also issued rules regarding hand brakes on cars, the training of employees who are responsible for handbrakes and the inspection of emergency equipment.
“Today’s action builds upon a comprehensive regulatory framework we have had in place for some time,” the FRA’s Joseph C. Szabo said in a statement. “The safe shipment of all cargo is paramount and protecting the safety of the American public is fundamental to our enforcement strategy and we are encouraged by the industry’s willingness to cooperate with this approach going forward.”
The agency, in conjunction with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, also issued a set of safety guidelines that include conducting system-wide evaluations to identify particular hazards to the transportation of these materials and developing additional safety standards.
These new rules stem from the July 6 devastating derailment of an oil-bearing train in Canada that killed more than 45 people. The agency’s ruling mirrors steps taken by the Canadian government in late July to prevent the movement of cars carry hazardous materials that are left unattended. The new Canadian laws demand that no fewer than two employees operate a train carrying dangerous goods and that directional controls be removed from unattended locomotives, among other rules.
Edward Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads, pointed out that railroads have had strict rules about the transportation of hazardous goods for decades. The industry will now review its safety procedures and update them according to the new guidelines, he said.
“Railroads are always looking for ways to make this nation’s rail network safer for our employees, our communities and the environment,” Hamberger said. “Railroads will implement what has been issued by the FRA today and examine what additional steps might be appropriate to ensure rail continues to be one of the safest ways to move hazardous materials.” - Jon Ross