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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-85-023
Details
Synopsis: AT 9:30 A.M. ON APRIL 10, 1984, 18 CARS OF EASTBOUND SEABOARD SYSTEM RAILROAD FREIGHT TRAIN FERHL DERAILED AT MARSHVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, FOLLOWING THE FAILURE OF A FREIGHT CAR AXLE JOURNAL AS A RESULT OF THE JOURNAL OVERHEATING. TWO OF THE FOUR DERAILED TANK CARS LOADED WITH METHANOL, A FLAMMABLE LIQUID, WERE BREACHED DURING THE DERAILMENT, AND THE RELEASED METHANOL WAS IGNITED. THREE BUILDINGS AND FOUR AUTOMOBILES WERE DESTROYED BY THE FIRE. AN ESTIMATED 2,100 PERSONS WITHIN A 1-MILE RADIUS OF THE ACCIDENT SITE WERE EVACUATED, U.S. HIGHWAY 74 WAS CLOSED, AND THE FIRE WAS ALLOWED TO BURN UNTIL IT SUBSIDED AT 10 P.M. ON THE DAY OF THE ACCIDENT. ONE PERSON RECEIVED A MINOR INJURY DURING THE EVACUATION. DAMAGE WAS ESTIMATED TO BE $1,383,000.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS: ACCELERATE THE SCHEDULE OF THE ONGOING INDUSTRY PROGRAM FOR PROTECTING BOTTOM DISCONTINUITIES ON EXISTING STUB-SILL TANK CARS SO AS TO COMPLETE RETROFITTING BY JULY 31, 1988.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Marshville, NC, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA84AZ005
Accident Reports: Seaboard System Railroad Freight Train Ferhl Derailment and Fire
Report #: RAR-85-05
Accident Date: 4/10/1984
Issue Date: 5/24/1985
Date Closed: 10/27/1986
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Association of American Railroads (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 10/27/1986
Response: The Safety Board notes that the AAR Tank Car Committee has recently completed a re-evaluation of the present retrofit schedule. While the Board notes further that the shipper group representatives on the Committee have been requested to urge their members to complete modifications of involved cars on an expedited basis and that AAR indicates that it will not favor requests for extensions, there has been no substantive acceleration of the schedule. With the exception of 10 cars with sumps and washouts in flammable liquid service which will be modified by the 1988 target date, the bottom fittings protection program for existing non-pressure stub sill tank cars remains as published in M-1002, Specifications for Tank Cars. While the Board agrees that the required retrofits under the HM-144 and HM-175 programs will aid in limiting the potential for violent rupture of some tank cars, the Board points out that these programs do not affect the 105 tank cars of 18,500-gallon capacity or less, the many 111 tank cars, or products similar to ethylene oxide, such as propylene oxide or acrolein. The Board also points out that flammable liquids are not the only materials that may initiate fires during derailments, as your letter suggests. Combustibles, corrosives, and flammable solids are other materials from which fires may originate. Since it appears that further dialogue will not convince the AAR to take additional action to accelerate the program, the Safety Board has placed Safety Recommendation R-85-23 in a "Closed-Unacceptable Action" status.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 8/26/1986
Response: AS PROMISED TO YOU IN MY LETTER OF 9/26/85, THE AAR TANK CAR COMMITTEE HAS RECENTLY COMPLETED A REEVALUATION OF THE PRESENT RETROFIT SCHEDULE, AND HAS CONCLUDED THAT SAFETY BOARD CONCERNS ARE BEING ACCOMMODATED WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF THE PRESENT SCHEDULE WITH SOME ALTERATION. THE PARAGRAPHS WHICH FOLLOW CONTAIN RATIONALE SUPPORTING THAT CONCLUSION. YOUR LETTER TARGETS THE MAIN THREAT AS STEMMING FROM "...THE RELEASE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS FROM TANK CARS INVOLVED IN DERAILMENTS (WHICH) OFTEN FUEL FIRES THAT ARE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING HEAT NECESSARY TO CAUSE A VIOLENT RUPTURE OF OTHER TANK CARS..." THE COMMITTEE BELIEVES THAT THE CARS THAT RUPTURE VIOLENTLY ARE THE DOT 112, 114 AND 105 CARS USED TO TRANSPORT LIQUEFIED FLAMMABLE GAS AND ETHYLENE OXIDE. UNDER HM-144 AND HM-175, RETROFIT OF PROTECTIVE DEVICES ON THESE CARS WAS MANDATED AND, AFTER COMPLETION OF THE HM-175, RETROFIT OF PROTECTIVE DEVICES ON THESE CARS WAS MANDATED AND, AFTER COMPLETION OF THE HM-175 PROGRAM BY 12/31/86, THE POSSIBILITY OF VIOLENT RUPTURE OF A TANK CAR HAS BEEN GREATLY REDUCED. SEVERAL NTSB EVALUATIONS HAVE CONFIRMED EFFECTIVENESS IN THIS RESPECT. AS FOR CARS WHICH MAY FUEL FIRES, THE COMMITTEE'S PRIORITIES ARE INTENDED TO FOCUS ON THOSE THAT TRANSPORT FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS -- THE POTENTIAL FUEL SOURCE. TO MINIMIZE THESE KINDS OF RISKS, THE AAR DIRECTIVE MANDATES THAT TANK CARS IN FLAMMABLE LIQUID SERVICE MUST HAVE BOTTOM OUTLETS PROTECTED BY JULY 1, 1988, WHICH IS COM PATIBLE WITH THE NTSB'S REQUESTED COMPLETION DATE OF 7/31/88. CARS WITH SUMPS AND WASHOUTS IN FLAMMABLE LIQUID SERVICE MUST HAVE PROTECTION JULY 1, 1989; HOWEVER, BASED ON A RECENT SURVEY OF THE TANK CAR POPULATION, THERE ARE FEWER THAN 10 CARS IN THIS CATEGORY. FOR THESE CARS, AAR HAS TAKEN STEPS TO SEE THAT MODIFICATIONS ARE COMPLETED IN ACCORDANCE WITH NTSB'S 1988 TARGET DATE FOR BOTTOM OUTLET CARS. A CIRCULAR LETTER HAS BEEN ISSUED TO THE CAR OWNERS, REMINDING THEM OF THE RETROFIT SCHEDULE AND INFORMING THEM THAT THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE WILL NOT FAVOR REQUESTS FOR EXTENSIONS. IN ADDITION, THE SHIPPER GROUP REPRESENTATIVES ON THE COMMITTEE HAVE BEEN REQUESTED TO URGE THEIR MEMBERS TO COMPLETE MODIFICATIONS OF INVOLVED CARS ON AN EXPEDITED BASIS. AAR SHARES YOUR CONCERNS FOR SAFETY IN RAIL TRANS PORTATION, AND WE BELIEVE THAT THE BOTTOM FITTINGS RETROFIT PROGRAM AS BEING IMPLEMENTED IS IN ACCORD WITH THE INTENT OF YOUR R-85-23.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 12/16/1985
Response: The Safety Board notes the Association of American Railroad's (AAR) concerns in revising or accelerating the time frame of an established retrofit schedule. As expressed in our letter of May 24, 1985, the Board is concerned that the release of hazardous materials from tank cars involved in derailments often fuel fires that are capable of producing heat necessary to cause a violent rupture of other tank cars carrying hazardous materials that were not breached by the derailment. The safety of railroad personnel and the public at large demand that every effort be made to accelerate this retrofit program. In view of the AAR's indication that the Tank Car Committee under docket T10.18-85 is considering possible options for acceleration of the schedule for bottom discontinuity retrofit, Safety Recommendation R-85-23 will be held in an "Open-Acceptable Action" status. The Board would appreciate being informed as soon as possible of any developments in this area.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 9/26/1985
Response: THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS APPRECIATES THE SAFETY BOARD'S COMMENDATION OF THE ACTIONS WE HAVE VOLUNTARILY TAKEN IN REGARD TO NEW CARS BEING FITTED WITH PROTECTION AND EXISTING CARS BEING RETROFITTED ACCORDING TO A TIME SCHEDULE BASED ON THE HAZARD POSED BY THE MATERIAL TRANSPORTED. WE WANT TO ASSURE YOU THAT THE ORIGINAL DECISIONS RELATED TO IMPLEMENTING SUCH ACTIONS (AND EXPENDITURES), SETTING DEFINITE PRIORITY STAGINGS FOR ACCOMPLISHING RETROFITS, AND ESTABLISHING TIME FRAMES FOR COMPLETION WERE CAREFULLY MADE AND EVALUATED. MOREOVER, ONCE PLANS FOR RETROFIT ARE ADOPTED BY INDIVIDUAL OWNERS (AS IS NOW THE CASE) DRASTIC REVISIONS CAN BE DIFFICULT, COSTLY AND OFTEN PROVE TO BE INEFFECTIVE. UP TO THIS POINT, ALMOST 6,000 TANK CARS HAVE BEEN RETROFITTED WITH PROTECTION. ALTERING PRIORITIES OR ATTEMPTING TO ACCELERATE THE ENTIRE PROGRAM MIGHT WELL GENERATE ADVERSE OR UNDESIRABLE REPERCUSSIONS. NEVERTHELESS, IN RESPONSE TO YOUR RECOMMENDATION, THE AAR TANK CAR COMMITTEE UNDER DOCKET T10.18-85 IS CONSIDERING POSSIBLE OPTIONS FOR ACCELERATION OF THE SCHEDULE FOR BOTTOM DISCONTINUITY RETROFIT. WE WILL ADVISE THE SAFETY BOARD SHOULD WE UNCOVER A VIABLE WAY OF ACCELERATING THE RETROFIT SCHEDULE OF STUB-SILL TANK CARS.