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Canada pushes to improve construction of rail tank cars

Keywords: Tags  steel, Transport Canada, Lisa Raitt, tank car design regulations, Railway Association of Canada, Michael Bourque, Canadian National Railway, government of New Brunswick CN Railway

CHICAGO — The Canadian government has proposed amending regulations for tank car construction following the recent derailment of a Canadian National Railway Co. (CN Railway) freight train carrying propane and crude oil.

The proposed rules, published Jan. 11, would require that new DOT 111 tank cars transporting dangerous goods, such as crude oil, be built with thicker steel and include top-fitting and head shield protection.

The industry is already building new tank cars to this standard, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said, but the proposal "would turn previously agreed to tank car standard requirements into regulations."

Transport Canada is working with those designing and manufacturing tank cars, as well as with the U.S. government, to determine what additional requirements would enhance the DOT 111 standard, including retrofitting, repurposing or retiring older tank cars in the North American fleet.

The CN Railway derailment near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, on Jan. 7 caused no injuries, although several of the Montreal-based company’s tank cars caught fire and forced the evacuation of residents in the area (, Jan. 9).

New Brunswick public safety officials allowed residents within 1.2 miles of the derailment to return home Jan. 11 as fires burning off petroleum product spilled in the derailment were finally extinguished.

Train detours between Montreal and Moncton, New Brunswick, have been terminated because the Plaster Rock accident site has been cleared, CN Railway notified shippers.

Canada also wants to increase the requirements regarding pressure relief valves on aluminum tank cars to reduce non-accidental releases of dangerous goods.

The Railway Association of Canada voiced support for the regulatory amendments. "These (DOT 111) cars need to be replaced and regulators on both sides of the border should work together to introduce a mandatory phase-out of legacy tank cars for the transport of flammable liquids," Railway Association of Canada president and chief executive officer Michael Bourque said.

This was the second such accident in North America in less than 10 days, following a tank car derailment in North Dakota (, Dec. 31).

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