Canada limits speeds of crude oil, ethanol trains in urban areas

By Erin Voegele | April 28, 2015

The Canadian government issued an emergency directive to railway companies to slow trains transporting dangerous goods. Companies must now slow their trains to a maximum of 40 miles per hour (mph) when traveling in highly urbanized areas. The announcement was made on April 23 by Minister of Transportation Lisa Raitt.

The emergency directive also requires increased inspections and risk assessments along key routes used for the transportation of dangerous goods, including crude oil and ethanol. The emergency directive will remain in place until August 17.

Information released by the Canadian government indicates the country’s two largest railway operators, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, have already restricted train speeds to a maximum of 35 mph in highly urbanized areas.

“Transport Canada continues to take strong action to safeguard Canadians that live along our rail corridors. The Emergency Directive issued today serves as yet another measure to ensure railway companies transport dangerous goods safely and securely,” Raitt said.

The Canadian announcement came less than one week after the U.S. Department of Transportation, along with its agencies the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, announced a package of actions that aims to enhance the safe transportation of Class 3 flammable liquids, including ethanol and crude oil.  The DOT announcement included one emergency order and several safety advisories and notices to industry intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.

The emergency order requires certain trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas to adhere to a maximum authorized operating speed limit of 40 miles per hour. The emergency order applies to trains that contain 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block or 35 or more loaded tank cars of Class 3 flammable liquid, and at least one DOT-111 tank car loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid. The order is effective immediately and railroads were directed to complete implementation no later than April 24.