The American Chemistry Council has called for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to prioritize recommended safety enhancements "for the largest portion of the ongoing construction of new tank cars" in its hazmat rulemaking.
It also asked the agency to recognize that improving the manufacture of new tank cars will be more efficient than retrofitting existing cars.
"ACC believes the quickest and best way to for PHMSA to improve safety through this rulemaking is to focus on recommendations that have the support of all transportation stakeholders and to employ proven technologies," the organization's Tom Schick wrote in a comment filed with the administration. "Specifically, the agency should expedite a federal standard for new tank cars that carry petroleum and ethanol.”
The ACC pointed to figures by the Association of American Railroads that found that only 0.01 percent of rail hazmat shipments are involved in a train accident. The council noted that safeguards are currently working and pressed the agency to continue the good work that has been achieved by a combination of strong regulations and the work of shippers and railroads.
“PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration should adopt a comprehensive approach to safety. An effective strategy to enhance the safe movement of chemical shipments by rail must encompass more than just tank car designs and must help address the root causes of recent accidents that resulted in tank car breaches," he wrote. "It begins with accident prevention strategies that address railroad operational failures and railroad infrastructure defects – the leading causes of rail accidents. Stronger tank car standards or any other accident mitigation strategy is no substitute for this commitment to accident prevention.”