HOUSTON, June 24 The United States should follow
the example of Canadian transport regulators with a relatively
quick phasing-out of older tank cars that carry volatile crude
oil, the head of Canada's National Transportation Safety Board
said on Tuesday.
"If we in Canada can take them out of service in three years,
the same can be done here," TSB Chairwoman Wendy Tadros told
rail, pipeline and logistics company executives at an
oil-by-rail safety conference in Houston, Texas.
She said it wasn't enough to encourage voluntary phase-outs
of older cars that safety experts deem more susceptible to
punctures and leaks in a derailment or crash.
U.S. regulators are considering new rules for tank cars
following a series of fiery crude-train crashes and derailments,
as oil-by-rail traffic swells in tandem with booming crude
production in North America.
Canada's action came in April after the worst such accident
so far - in July last year - when a runaway crude train crashed
in a small Quebec town, killing 47 people and leaving half its
downtown strip in ruins.
There have been no deaths in subsequent accidents in the
Specifically, Canada requires that rail cars built before
October 2011, when the rail industry adopted a newer tank car
design, be phased out by May 2017.
Many shippers have switched to the newer design, which has
thicker hulls and reinforced valves. Refiners that receive oil
have fleets already comprised of the newer cars, or are phasing
out older ones this year.
Still, the newer cars aren't immune to accidents. A
derailment on April 30 of a CSX Corp crude train in
Lynchburg, Virginia, involved cars of the newer design.
Stephen Klejst, deputy managing director of the National
Transportation Safety Board, the TSB's counterpart in the U.S.,
declined to discuss the Lynchburg accident at the conference as
the NTSB's investigation is ongoing.
The NTSB has recommended that crude trains move at slower
speeds and bypass urban areas. Klejst said thicker hulls could
reduce cracks and tears and mitigate the severity of accidents.
"The energy associated with these accidents, even at 30
miles per hour, is significant," he said. "As you improve the
cars, you can reduce consequences in derailment."
The TSB and NTSB, which have no enforcement authority, can
only make recommendations to improve safety.
Tadros said the accidents were the trigger for sweeping
changes that would require political courage by both
(Reporting by Kristen Hays; Editing by Bernadette Baum)