Wednesday, April 23, 2014

They aren't good enough for the job

But even as the railroad industry acknowledges this failing of the tank cars used to transport Bakken crude oil, they continue to use them because they are all they have until new rules and new cars come along.
None of the tank cars currently in service carrying Bakken crude oil is adequate for carrying that product, a rail industry representative testified Tuesday, but until new federal regulations are completed, the use of inadequate cars will continue.

That includes tank cars built to higher standards adopted by the industry since 2011. Such cars have failed in at least two recent derailments. Yet in the absence of the new rules, crude oil shippers and refiners continue to rely on them to meet the demands of North America’s energy resurgence.

In testimony opening a two-day hearing at the National Transportation Safety Board, rail companies and rail car makers agreed that crude-by-rail shipments would continue to grow.

“We don’t see crude oil transportation slowing down or stopping anytime soon,” testified Robert Fronczak, assistant vice president for environment and hazardous materials at the Association of American Railroads, an industry group.

The NTSB long ago recommended improvements to the industry’s workhorse DOT-111 model tank car, which have proved vulnerable to punctures and ruptures in numerous accidents over the years involving hazardous materials.

Expert witnesses testified that the industry knew it needed better cars before a deadly accident last summer in Quebec.
Leaking tanks and disastrous derailments serve no one and the industry has made efforts at improvement, but the March of Commerce waits for no man or industry and all those old tank cars will just have to soldier on until whenever.


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