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The trouble with trains: A look at the new rules from Transport Canada


lac-megantic

An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)

An article on the CBC News website (reproduced below) summarizes new rail safety rules from Transport Canada that it’s introducing in response to a report from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) that found a weak safety culture at the railroad responsible for the devastating accident at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec last year. The report also addresses systemic safety and oversight problems in Canada’s railway systems.

You can read the details for yourself in the article below, but some highlights include

  • New requirements for hand brakes and other safety devices to ensure parked trains stay put.
  • Transport Canada is recruiting 10 additional inspectors to do more audits and provide more information to municipalities about the rail cargo moving through their communities.
  • Rail companies found not in compliance will be held accountable, with new monetary penalties for failing to implement adequate safety management systems.
  • Transport Canada is investing in new research on dangerous cargo such as the crude oil that exploded in tanker cars in Lac-Mégantic. A targeted inspection campaign will check how hazardous goods are classified and reported.
  • Certain railways, including short lines and smaller companies, also will now submit employee training plans to Transport Canada for review. An audit blitz is planned to find and remedy specific training gaps at these rail shippers.
  • Each rail company will have to designate an executive to be held accountable for compliance with federal safety regulations.

These are welcome changes, and are long overdue. We’ve been calling for changes like this for some time at HazMat Management magazine. We’re particularly happy to hear new inspectors will be hired and that lots of spot auditing will occur. (Spot auditing is a great way to keep industry on its toes without having a bureaucracy review each and every shipment.) One can only hope that this momentum will carry forward forever, and not get slack (such that only another accident triggers renewed concern).

One short-coming we still feel strongly about is the need to divert dangerous rail shipments away from heavily-populated areas. We recognize this is not something that can happen overnight, but our idea is this: Transport Canada should establish a task force to study the most sensitive and populated urban areas through which the most dangerous goods travel by rail. Some kind of scoring system could be devised to rank different exposed populations and different dangerous goods with a view to creating a priority list of rail sites through which the most dangerous goods should not pass. A plan should then be devised to eventually route the most dangerous goods to where they need to go, while bypassing these locations. It may be that new sections of track would need to be laid, and the plan could include the idea of breaking shipments into smaller packets, when a certain chemical simply has to go to, say, the downtown of a major city. The goal would be that by a certain year, a certain percentage of the dangerous goods would no longer travel through high risk areas, and in later years less and less of the materials would pass through, and eventually be eliminated entirely.

This might complicate the lives of railway company managers and their industrial clients, but if the loss of life and property damage to the town of Lac-Mégantic taught us anything, keeping life simple for those people should not be our priority. As long as the plan is reasonable and phased in over time, it’s difficult to imagine it adding significantly to the cost of shipping explosive or flammable materials across the land.

So, this is what Canada is doing. It will be interesting to watch what changes occur in the United States.

UPDATED

Lac-Mégantic: Lisa Raitt announces rail safety rules based on crash findings

Transportation Safety Board report found ‘weak safety culture’ at Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railroad

CBC News Posted: Oct 29, 2014 8:42 AM ET Last Updated: Oct 29, 2014 11:07 AM ET

An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)

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New requirements for hand brakes and other safety devices to ensure parked trains stay put are among the changes Transport Canada will enforce in response to the devastating 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that her department is recruiting 10 additional inspectors to do more audits and provide more information to municipalities about the rail cargo moving through their communities.

Rail companies found not in compliance will be held accountable, with new monetary penalties for failing to implement adequate safety management systems.

“Canadians are never going to forget what happened in Lac-Mégantic,” Raitt said Wednesday, reflecting on her own visit to the crash site.

“I’ll never forget the strength and perseverance of the people who were there. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with them as they continue to rebuild their community and go through their loss process.”

“This past year has been difficult for everyone involved,” the minister said, acknowledging the hard work of not only her department but also the town’s mayor and other officials.

In August, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Transport Canada took seriously the Transportation Safety Board’s final recommendations on the 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Transport Canada is investing in new research on dangerous cargo such as the crude oil that exploded in tanker cars in Lac-Mégantic. A targeted inspection campaign will check how hazardous goods are classified and reported.

Certain railways, including short lines and smaller companies also will now submit employee training plans to Transport Canada for review. An audit blitz is planned to find and remedy specific training gaps at these rail shippers.

Each rail company will have to designate an executive to be held accountable for compliance with federal safety regulations. CN said in a brief statement it will implement the Transport Canada changes, adding that it already “has a robust train securement system” in place.

“Building a safety culture is a shared responsibility,” Raitt told reporters. “This tragedy is a case where rules simply were not followed.”

August report required action

The Transportation Safety Board’s final report found a “weak safety culture” at the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railroad, which “did not have a functioning safety management system to manage risks.”

The investigator’s final recommendations, released in August, fingered a failure of hand brakes to secure the train on the night it rolled away and crashed into the heart of the community’s downtown before exploding and killing 47 people.

MMA had gaps in training, employee monitoring and maintenance practices, the final report said.

The TSB report also found that Transport Canada did not audit MMA often and thoroughly enough to ensure safety procedures were being followed.

Raitt’s department issued an emergency directive immediately after the crash with new requirements for securing unattended trains. Trains with dangerous cargo were required from that point on to have at least a two-person crew.

The train that crashed in July 2013 had a one-person crew.

Part of Wednesday’s announcement was an additional directive implementing minimum requirements for hand brakes and other physical defences, backed up by a ministerial order to ensure the directive becomes permanent.

In April 2014, the government responded to initial recommendations from the TSB by removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tanker cars from circulation. At the time, it also required the industry to do more route planning and make sure emergency response plans are in place for the transportation of high-risk hydrocarbons like petroleum products.

Raitt said the new measures announced Wednesday took into account not only the TSB recommendations from the summer, but also the findings of the federal auditor general, the federal commissioner for the environment and sustainable development and the Quebec coroner’s office.