Comment period opens on FRA rule impacting ethanol trains

By Erin Voegele | September 19, 2014

The Federal Railroad Administration has opened a comment period on a proposed rule that aims to amend brake system safety standards for certain freight and other non-passenger trains. According to the rulemaking, trains carrying ethanol would be among those impacted. A statement published by the RFA notes the proposal will help prevent the unintended movement of trains.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “[This] action is only the latest in more than two dozen steps we have taken in the last year to further safeguard communities along train routes that carry crude oil and other flammable liquids.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 9. According to NPRM, the proposal aims to strengthen requirements related to the securement of unattended equipment. Specifically, the rulemaking is described as codifying many of the requirements already included in the FRA’s Emergency Order 28, which was published in August 2013 and established additional requirements for attendance and securement of certain freight trains and vehicles on mainline track or mainline siding outside of a yard or terminal.

According to the NPRA, the FRA is proposing to amend the existing regulations to include additional securement requirements for unattended equipment, primarily for trains transporting certain substances. This includes poisonous by inhalation hazardous materials, or large volumes of Division 2.1 flammable gases, Class 3 flammable or combustible liquids, which includes crude oil and ethanol, and Class 1.1 or 1.2 explosive hazardous materials. The FRA also proposes additional communication requirements for these trains related to job briefings and securement verification. In addition, the proposal would require all locomotives left unattended outside of a yard to be equipped with an operative exterior locking mechanism. The proposed rule indicates attendance on trains would be required on equipment not capable of being secured in accordance with proposed and existing requirements.

“While our existing securement regulations have been largely successful, it’s important in light of events over the past year that we take additional steps to mitigate risk here in the United States,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “This rulemaking will solidify our existing securement regulations and provide additional safeguards against the rolling of unattended freight trains, especially those carrying hazardous materials.”

According to the FRA, the NPRM is the result of a collaborative effort between the industry and other stakeholders who formed a working group to review securement rules, practices and operating procedures over the past year. The working group, convened through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee in August 2013, submitted its final recommendations for a proposed rule to the RFA in April 2014. The FRA said the U.S. Department of Transportation has also continued to collaborate with Canada.

A full copy of the NPRM can be found on the Federal Register website. Comments are due Nov. 10 and can be submitted online at under Docket ID: FRA-2014-0032.