By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) on Wednesday urged rail tank car owners and hazmat shippers of flammable liquids to stop using tank cars like some in a Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio and replace them with newer, safer tank cars.
USDOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said in an advisory the Ohio incident demonstrated “DOT-111” and “CPC-1232” tank cars do not perform at the highest level of survivability during derailments and urged owners to use newer safer “DOT-117” cars.
The advisory cited preliminary data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation that found significant issues in DOT-111 tank cars in the Ohio derailment while the DOT-117 cars performed well.
Rail safety legislation proposed in Congress would move up the deadline to 2025 to phase-out the older tank cars.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said at a Senate Commerce hearing on Wednesday the railroad supports the provision “for accelerating safer tank car standards”.
Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell introduced legislation in 2015 “to get rid of DOT-111s.”
Last month, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called on Congress to mandate owners of tank cars to expedite the phase-in of safer DOT-117 tank cars in advance of the congressionally mandated 2029 deadline.
NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said at the hearing the date should be moved up to eliminate DOT-111 cars from hazardous material service.
The PHMSA advisory calls on shippers of flammable liquids “to voluntarily upgrade their tank car fleets to the newest, and safest, available tank car design authorized for flammable liquid service.”
The advisory added railroads should consider applying
requirements applicable to high-hazard flammable trains to trains with fewer tank cars carrying flammable liquids in DOT-111 tank cars.
“It is in the interest of safety and protection of
human lives and the environment to use the best available tank car, as well as to voluntarily adopt operational controls,” the advisory said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Jacqueline Wong)