Comment period on DOT's proposed rail safety rule closes Sept. 30

By Erin Voegele | September 29, 2014

Representatives of the ethanol industry who wish to weigh in on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recent rail transportation safety proposal have until Sept. 30 to submit comments. The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration published the proposed rule in the Federal Register Aug. 1, officially opening the 60-day comment period. A prepublication version of the proposal was released July 23.    

The proposed rule aims to enhance tank car standards, develop a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids, and enact new operational requirements for high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) that include braking controls and speed reductions.

One provision of the proposed rule would require the phase out of old DOT-111 tank cars for the shipment of package group I flammable liquids within two years. In addition, enhanced standards would be set for both new and existing tank cars.

The rulemaking also proposes to define the term HHFT as a train carrying 20 or more tank carloads of flammable liquids. Carriers would be required to perform a routing analysis for HHFTs that would consider 27 safety and security factors and select a rout based on findings of that analysis. HHFTs would also be subject to speed restrictions of no more than 50 miles per hour (mph) in all areas. Within the rule, the PHMSA asks for comments on whether or not NNFTs that contain any tank cars not meeting certain enhanced tank car standards should be subject to a 40 mph restriction in all areas, only in high-threat urban areas, or in areas with a population of more than 100,000. Comments are also requested on several other provisions of the proposed rule, including whether a 30 mph restriction should be placed on HHFTs that do not comply with enhanced braking requirements. Those requirements would include a provision that all HHFTs be equipped with alternative break signal propagation systems.

As of Sept. 26, Regulations.gov indicated more than 2,200 public comments had already been received on the proposal.

A full copy of the proposed rule is available on the Federal Register website. Comments can be submitted online via the Regulations.gov website under Docket ID PHMSA-2012-0082-0180 , or by fax, mail or hand delivery. Additional information on how to comment is available on the Regulations.gov website