May 8, 2014 8:45 AM, EDT
Government Tells Railroads to Avoid Older Tank Cars
Matthew Staver/Bloomberg News

The federal government has told railroads to avoid using older model tank cars when transporting Bakken crude oil.

A May 7 safety advisory told “carriers of Bakken crude oil to avoid the use of older, legacy DOT Specification 111 or CTC 111 tank cars for the shipment of such oil to the extent reasonably practicable.”

The advisory was issued by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

FRA and PHMSA also said that given “the demonstrated recent propensity for rail accidents involving trains transporting Bakken crude oil to occur, and the subsequent releases of large quantities of such oil” shippers and carriers should “select and use the tank car designs with the highest level of integrity reasonably available within their fleet.”

Several derailments and fires involving trains carrying Bakken crude have occurred recently, the latest April 30 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Last July, a train carrying the crude derailed and exploded in Quebec, killing 47 people in the small community of Lac-Megantic.

As a result, Canada has ordered that within three years, railroads can ship the crude only in a stronger model of tank cars than what currently is on the tracks.

The same day the safety advisory was issued, the Department of Transportation ordered that railroads carrying more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude, or approximately 35 tank cars, must notify state emergency agencies about shipments.

The order requires the rail carries to report the volumes, frequencies of trips and routes.

The Association of American Railroads said in a statement that railroads have for years worked with emergency responders to educate and inform them of hazardous materials moving through their communities.

“These open and transparent communications will continue as railroads do all they can to comply with the Department of Transportation’s emergency order,” AAR said.