Canada issues new tank car requirements for ethanol, crude oil

By Erin Voegele | April 25, 2014

The Canadian government has announced a plan improve rail safety. It includes a requirement to phase out certain railcars used to carry ethanol and crude oil over a three year period. Some DOT-111 railcars are being removed from dangerous goods service immediately.

On April 23, Canadian Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced several actions to address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s initial recommendations regarding the ongoing investigation into the Lac- Mégantic train derailment. That incident occurred in Quebec last July when a train carrying crude oil derailed. Nearly four dozen people were killed.

"As the Minister responsible for Canada's transportation system, I am committed to making our country a model of world class safety. The measures I am announcing today improve the safety of the railway and transportation of dangerous goods systems from coast to coast to coast,” Raitt said.

Effective immediately, Transport Canada has issued a protective direction, removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 railcars from dangerous goods service. Information released by the Canadian government specifies that the tank cars being removed from service are those not equipped with continuous bottom reinforcement, which pose a much higher risk of failure in the event of a derailment. Transport Canada estimates this requirement will impact roughly 5,000 tanks cars in North America. While these cars must be removed from dangerous goods service, they can be repurposed to transport non-dangerous goods in Canada.

The Canadian government is also requiring DOT-111 tank cars used to transport cure oil and ethanol that to not meet the standard published in January 2014 in Canada Gazette, Part I, or any other future standard, to be phased out or refitted within three years. The changes included in that standard include thicker steel and additional top fitting and heat shield protection. According to Transport Canada, industry is already building new tank cars to this standard, with nearly 55,000 already ordered. Those new orders represent nearly half of the current DOT-111 tank car fleet used to transport flammable liquids. Transport Canada indicated it would formalize the updated DOT-111 standards in Canada Gazette, Part II, this summer.

Transport Canada has also issued a Protective Direction requiring emergency response assistance plans for crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and ethanol. In addition, a task force will be created that brings stakeholders, such as municipalities, first responders, railways and shippers together to strengthen emergency response capacity across the country.

Finally, the Canadian government is requiring railway companies to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods and implement other key operating practices.

A backgrounder on new DOT-111 requirements is available here. Additional links and information on the announcement are available on the Transport Canada website.