DOT Proposal Would Enhance Response to Hazmat Accidents on Railroads

The U.S. Department of Transportation published a proposed rule that would toughen the requirements for railroads’ responses and communications with emergency response personnel when an accident involves crude oil.

Those trains, known as high-hazard flammable trains, or HHFTs, have been the subject of multiple steps by DOT that are intended to minimize accident damage. The latest announcement from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration followed earlier steps, such as requiring thicker tank car walls.

“Incidents involving crude oil can have devastating consequences to local communities and the environment,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “We’ve taken more than 30 actions in the last two years to continue to address risk, and we continue to push the industry to do more to prevent derailments from happening. This rule goes one step further to hold industry accountable to plan and prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

The railroads would have to publish more detailed plans on a monthly basis, including emergency responses, train frequency, precise cargo information, and providing a point of contact for emergency responders. The agency also noted that the proposed rule would make the communication of that information to first responders a legal requirement for the railroads, rather than an informal process.

Also, the rule proposal includes an addition to the agency’s hazardous material regulations to set a method for testing initial boiling points of flammable liquids.