-From Timothy P. Butters, Deputy Administrator: This letter responds to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) April 3, 2015, letter urging the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to take action on new Safety Recommendations concerning rail transportation of Class 3 flammable liquids. These new Safety Recommendations, R-15-14 through R-15-17, resulted from the NTSB’s examination of damaged tank cars following the February 16, 2015, derailment of a CSX Transportation crude oil unit train in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, as well as a review of data collected from several other crude oil unit train accidents occurring in the same timeframe. These Safety Recommendations address the retrofit of Specification DOT-111 tank cars with thermal protection systems that are used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids (hereafter referred to as “flammable liquid”).
We thank the NTSB for its vigilance on this transportation safety issue and its continued investigative efforts to improve rail transportation safety for crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids. We share your commitment to enhancing the safety of rail transportation, and are pleased to inform you that Secretary Anthony R. Foxx has signed and announced a final rule entitled “Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251). Pending publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, we posted the signed version at our website homepage for public viewing. This rule focuses on prevention, mitigation, and response, to manage and reduce the risk posed by the transportation of flammable liquids by rail tank car. Through tremendous collaborative efforts with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), we established a comprehensive solution designed to reduce the probability and minimize the consequences of an accident. We have adopted risk mitigation requirements that address braking, classification, operating speeds, and routing to reduce the probability of accidents. Finally, we adopted enhanced design and performance standards for rail tank cars in flammable liquid service to minimize the consequence of an accident. The required safety measures and the timeline for phase-out and retrofit of legacy tank cars used in high-hazard flammable train (HHFT)a service will strike a balance between the safety needs of rail transportation of flammable liquids and the economic viability of the rail industry. Upon consideration of shop capacity, the comments received on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and the potential impacts associated with the retrofit schedule, PHMSA recognizes the need to upgrade the rail car fleet, but finds that a targeted phase-out of the DOT-111 tank cars is the most prudent and protective approach.
We concur that replacing or retrofitting of “legacy” DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars should follow an “aggressive schedule.” PHMSA used a risk-based data analysis with stakeholder input to develop an implementation timeline that is commensurate with the safety risks introduced by the different tank car types and flammable liquids combinations. We adjusted the retrofit schedule to accommodate varying deadlines, and what we believe will effectively incorporate “intermediate progress milestone[s].” This assures the greatest amount of risk reduction in the shortest amount of time feasible. We target the highest risk combination of tank car types and flammable liquid service (i.e., non-jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in PG I service) first, and impose the shortest implementation period on this segment of the tank car fleet and service by January 1, 2017 and January 1, 2018, respectively.
PHMSA's implementation timeline addresses the risks associated with varying tank car type and the characteristics of the flammable liquids according to its Packing Group (PG) assignment.
Regarding tank car types, we have categorized the tank car types as follows:
1) Non-jacketed DOT-111s;
2) Jacketed DOT-111s;
3) Non-jacketed CPC-1232s; and
4) Jacketed CPC-1232s.
Under the final rule, both new and existing tank cars used in flammable liquid service as part of an HHFT must be equipped with jackets, thermal protection systems, and upgraded PRDs. New tank cars must be constructed to enhanced design and performance standards starting October 1, 2015. The existing fleet must be retrofitted to include a thermal protection system and jacket according to a risk-based implementation timeline that prioritizes retrofit of higher risk tank car types and higher risk flammable liquids; or be placed out of this service. This timeline is reflected in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Timeline for the Retrofit of Affected Tank Cars for Use in U.S. HHFTs
Tank Car Type / Service Retrofit Deadline
Non Jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in PG I service (January 1, 2017*)
January 1, 2018
Jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in PG I service March 1, 2018
Non-Jacketed CPC-1232 tank cars in PG I service April 1, 2020
Non Jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in PG II service May 1, 2023
Jacketed DOT-111 tank cars in PG II service May 1, 2023
Non-Jacketed CPC-1232 tank cars in PG II service July 1, 2023
Jacketed CPC-1232 tank cars in PG I and PG II service** and all remaining tank cars carrying PG III materials in an HHFT (pressure relief valve and valve handles). May 1, 2025
The January 1, 2017, deadline triggers a reporting requirement for those entities that have not retrofitted all of their fleet as required. The report to DOT must include the number of tank cars they own or lease that have been retrofitted, and the number of those that have not yet been retrofitted. Conversely, the lowest risk tank car type (i.e., the jacketed CPC-1232), and tank cars carrying PG III flammable liquid material, will undergo retrofitting in conformance with the least aggressive deadline (May 1, 2025). Other tank cars and flammable liquid services are addressed by intermediate milestones as shown in Table 1. PHMSA and FRA have worked with Transport Canada to harmonize our respective timelines As a result; all tiers except for the first tier, of the retrofit schedule have been harmonized.
The year 2025 final deadline signals a total implementation period of 10 years; however, we believe our targeted approach to address the greatest risks posed by rail transport of flammable liquid in a shorter period of time satisfies the intent of Safety Recommendation R-15-16 (see Table 1). Notably, the entire fleet of the highest risk tank car type (i.e., non-jacketed or “legacy” DOT-111s in PG I service) will be removed from service or be retrofitted in less than 5 years and all PG I service with these tank cars in HHFTs will cease in 5 years. Further, we fully expect the majority of tank cars in the last, lowest risk grouping (i.e., jacketed CPC-1232 tank cars and all remaining tank cars carrying PG III materials), will be retrofitted markedly in advance of the 2025 deadline because of existing tank car requalification and maintenance scheduling.
Finally, we intend to collaborate with various stakeholders to develop an additional reporting mechanism to report the progress made in retrofitting or replacing tank car types in flammable liquid service used as part of a HHFT. We further note that PHMSA and FRA are collaborating with different stakeholders, including Transport Canada and the Association of American Railroads (AAR), to further address this issue. The industry’s achievement of other important milestones in the implementation timeline should be monitored and evaluated in some form. As a possible avenue for an additional reporting mechanism, at the AAR Tank Car Committee Meeting held in April 2015, Transport Canada, with PHMSA and FRA’s support, requested the AAR modify the rail industry’s Universal Machine Language Equipment Register (UMLER) System to include an appropriate reporting mechanism. Modifying UMLER in such a fashion should yield a variety of important metrics that could then be used to assess and report on the progress made in retrofitting or replacing the population of tank cars subject to the thermal protection system requirements. We will update the NTSB on any future progress with regard to a publicly available reporting mechanism.