U.S. DOT Takes New Emergency Actions as Part of Comprehensive Strategy to Keep Crude Oil Shipments Safe

Emergency order requires railroads transporting crude to notify state emergency response commissions; safety advisory urges use of tank cars with highest integrity

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an Emergency Order requiring all railroads operating trains containing large amounts of Bakken crude oil to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the operation of these trains through their states.

Additionally, DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Safety Advisory strongly urging those shipping or offering Bakken crude oil to use tank car designs with the highest level of integrity available in their fleets.  In addition, PHMSA and FRA advise offerors and carriers to the extent possible to avoid the use of older legacy DOT Specification 111 or CTC 111 tank cars for the shipment of Bakken crude oil.

“The safety of our nation’s railroad system, and the people who live along rail corridors is of paramount concern,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “All options are on the table when it comes to improving the safe transportation of crude oil, and today’s actions, the latest in a series that make up an expansive strategy, will ensure that communities are more informed and that companies are using the strongest possible tank cars.”

Effective immediately, the Emergency Order (Docket Number DOT-OST-2014-0067), requires that each railroad operating trains containing more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil, or approximately 35 tank cars, in a particular state to provide the SERC notification regarding the expected movement of such trains through the counties in that state.

The notification must include estimated volumes of Bakken crude oil being transported, frequencies of anticipated train traffic and the route through which Bakken crude oil will be transported.  The Emergency Order also requires the railroads provide contact information for at least one responsible party at the host railroads to the SERCs.  The Emergency Order advises railroads to assist the SERCs as necessary to share the information with the appropriate emergency responders in affected communities.

FRA and PHMSA also issued a joint Safety Advisory, Number 2014-01, to the rail industry strongly recommending the use of tank cars with the highest level of integrity in their fleet when transporting Bakken crude oil.

The Department of Transportation continues to pursue a comprehensive, all-of-the-above approach in minimizing risk and ensuring the safe transport of crude oil.  FRA and PHMSA have undertaken more than a dozen actions to enhance the safe transport of crude oil over the last ten months. This comprehensive approach includes immediate and long-term steps such as: launching “Operation Classification” in the Bakken region to verify that crude oil is being properly classified; issuing safety advisories, alerts, emergency orders and regulatory updates; conducting special inspections; moving forward with a rulemaking to enhance tank car standards; and reaching agreement with railroad companies on a series of immediate voluntary actions they can take by reducing speeds, increasing inspections, using new brake technology and investing in first responder training.

The mission of the Federal Railroad Administration is to enable the safe, reliable and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future. To learn more about the FRA visit www.fra.dot.gov

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration develops and enforces regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation’s 2.5 million mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air. Please visit http://phmsa.dot.govExternal Link for more information.

Freight Rail: The Best Way to Ship Perishable Products





What is … DOT-111s

Many commodities move via rail, but it is often easy to overlook the importance of tank cars as we discuss intermodal shipments, coal, or general freight traffic. There are several types of tank cars, such as a DOT-112 or DOT-114, but by far the bulk of the rail tanker fleet consists of DOT-111. Introduced in the 1960s, the DOT-111 was designed to carry non-pressurized liquids, such as syrups, food oils, etc. Recently, it has been the main tank car used in moving crude petroleum.
Domestic oil and gas production have transformed over the past few years, as new locations are producing significant amounts of crude and natural gas. In many cases, insufficient pipeline capacity to move this crude petroleum and the fairly long lead times to create new pipelines make rail a viable option of shipments from Texas or North Dakota to refineries in Canada and the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts.  It is expected that rail transportation will remain a critical role in the movement of energy which was over 1.6 billion barrels a day in the first half of 2013.
Every day thousands of tons of hazardous materials are shipped across the United States, with relatively few incidents. As rail crude petroleum shipments increased, there have been some high profile incidents involving crude shipments, in part because of the DOT-111 itself.  The DOT-111 is an older tanker car designed to handle unpressurized liquid cargos, lacking the double hull standard now required for hauling hazardous materials and is prone to punctures in certain operational situations. After a 2009 incident in Illinois, the American Association of Railroads began studying options for improving the crashworthiness of the DOT-111 tank. (In Canada, the DOT-112 and 114 cars are required for transporting pressurized gases such as propane; crude oil is normally exempt since it ships non-pressurized.) A new design was recommended by AAR in 2011. Fleets put in the new DOT-111’s, although DOT is expected to release guidance on a new standard in 2015. (FRA is the agency actually involved in hazardous shipments by rail, including enforcement and approval of shipments and tank car standards.)
As with any change to an expensive asset with a relatively long life, the stronger standard AAR recommended has been slowly introduced, as the bulk of rail car fleets are actually owned or leased by customers. New cars are rotated into various fleets as maintenance, budgeting and new car availability dictate. (While new tank car can cost close to $100,000, one unit train of over 100 cars requires over $10 million in rolling stock.) Adding to the debate over the safety of the DOT-111 for crude petroleum shipments, U.S. mayors have proposed surcharges to cover the additional costs and response/training needed to handle any accidents. The U.S. is expected to remain a major producer of crude petroleum, and rail shipments are likely to remain an important transportation option. The DOT-111, a rail car first introduced in the 1960s, remains an important component of today’s discussions on domestic energy in North America.



United States Freight Facts, Figures, and Air Quality Issues

United States Freight Facts, Figures, and Air Quality Issues

The ability of our nation’s transportation system to provide for and
maintain the efficient movement of freight is important to the continuing economic health of the United States. U.S. domestic freight tonnage is anticipated to approximately double – and international freight tonnage expected to nearly triple – by 2035. This book provides facts and figures on the flow of U.S. freight while examining the physical network, economic conditions and transportation system responsible for the movement of freight. It then explores the growing need to find new ways to address air quality concerns and greenhouse gas emissions associated with freight movements.



U.S. Marine Transportation: Container Ports, Inland Waterways and Harbor Maintenance

The U.S. marine transportation system handles large volumes of domestic and international freight in support of the Nation’s economic activities. As a vital part of that system, the Nation’s container ports handle cargo and are sources of employment, revenue, and taxes for businesses or communities where they are located. This book provides an overview of the movement of maritime freight handled by the Nation’s container ports. It summarizes trends in maritime freight movement since 1995, and covers the impact of the recent U.S. and global economic downturn on container traffic; trends in container throughput; concentration of containerized cargo at the top U.S. ports; regional shifts in cargo handled, vessel calls, and port capacity and the rankings of U.S. ports among the world’s top ports Also discussed are summaries of landside access to container ports and maritime security initiatives.



The Freight Transportation Array: Global Highlights and U.S. Gateways

To move large quantities of goods across the country and around the world, Americans depend on the Nation’s freight transportation system – a vast network of roads, bridges, rail tracks, airports, seaports, navigable waterways, pipelines, and equipment. Because economic activities worldwide have become more integrated and globalized, more goods produced by U.S. factories and farms are bound for export, and imports originate from more than 200 countries. This pace of trade Americans have become accustomed to is made possible by the complex intermodal transportation network that blankets the country and links the United States with world markets. This book provides a snapshot of freight transportation activity from a global perspective, highlighting physical characteristics and industry output for the U.S. and other leading world economies.



Freight shipments were at an all time high in December 2011.  U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) was at 114.0 in December 2011 and is now at 107.1 for October 2012.  Both rail freight and trucking showed significant declines.