New US tank car proposal to match industry plan

07 April 2008 20:03  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Federal rail regulators said on Monday they expect the new hazardous materials tank car design being developed by the US chemicals industry in cooperation with railroads will meet a proposed mandate to be made final this year.


A spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said the administration’s newly proposed standard for a more crash-survivable tank car for toxic inhalant hazard (TIH) cargoes “will dovetail with the next generation tank car project” that is nearing completion.


The next generation tank car is being developed by Dow Chemical in cooperation with Union Pacific (UP) railroad and Union Tank Car Company with informal participation by the administration.


Henry Ward, Dow’s director of transportation security and leader of the private sector tank car project, said earlier this year that work on the new tank car design is nearing completion and that production could begin early in 2009.


In a long-anticipated move, the administration last week issued a proposed rule that would establish a federal standard for a new tank car design. Chemical, rail and environmental interests are expected to comment on the proposed rule by the 2 June deadline.


As outlined in proposed form, the new federal standard would require that tank cars carrying TIH cargoes have “puncture-resistance protection strong enough to prevent penetration at speeds of 25 mph for side impacts and 30 mph for head-on collisions”.


Those puncture-proof speed minimums are twice the current standard, according to FRA.


The proposed rule also would impose a 50 mph speed limit for any train hauling a TIH tank car, and it would require quick replacement of any TIH tank car manufactured prior to 1989.


FRA spokesman Warren Flatau said that as proposed, the new tank car standard does parallel the private sector design project led by Dow and nearing completion.


Dow’s Ward declined to say whether the FRA tank car proposal matches the next generation design project, noting that he and others involved in the private sector effort are still studying the administration’s 50-page proposed rule.


Flatau said that following the public comment period that ends on 2 June, the administration expects to write a final rule for publication before the end of this year.  A summary of the proposed rule is available on the FRA Web site.


Replacement of the estimated 15,000 TIH tank cars now on the US rail system is expected to be completed within ten years.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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