The story of rail freight car build rates is all about
tankers. Tank carswhich carry crude oil from shale plays
to refineries, as well as chemicals, liquids and pressurized
gasesaccount for about 80 percent of new rail car orders
and order backlogs.
In the first half of
this year, 12,967 tank cars were delivered, 26,211 new orders
were placed and 61,350 were on backlog, Kenneth Kremar, a
principal with IHS Global Insights Industry Practices
Group, told the Metals Service Center Institutes Economic
Summit in Schaumburg Sept. 10.
"Youve got a
good couple of years before crude-by-rail tapers off as
pipeline capacity comes on-stream," Kremar said. "Oil producers
will still like the flexibility of rail," however, and are
likely to continue to use trains to ship crude.
Tank cars, typically
made of steel plate, will sell briskly through at least 2015,
Kremar predicted, despite safety concerns that arose when a
runaway train hauling tank cars carrying crude oil from the
Bakken shale derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July
6, causing an explosion that leveled part of the town and
killed 47 people (
amm.com, Sept. 3).
That accident will
lead railroads to retrofit older equipment with better valves,
fittings and controls to contain volatile liquids and gases,
Kremar said. But with the National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) possibly phasing out certain types of carswhich it
previously did for tank cars transporting ammoniathe
railroads also will buy new, safer rail cars.
The Pipeline and
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the
U.S. Transportation Department, is seeking public comment to
further enhance the safe transportation of hazardous materials
by rail tank cars. One example is the DOT 111 tank car, a type
of non-pressure tank car commonly used in North America.
issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that will
reflect a collection of stakeholder input on rail car safety,
including eight petitions for rulemaking and four NTSB
recommendations. The agency expects to update regulations that
apply to transporting hazardous materials by rail.
operating in the United States are currently working under an
emergency order issued Aug. 2 by the Federal Railroad
Administration to prevent the unintentional movement of
hazardous materials, including crude oil and ethanol, on
mainline tracks or sidings.