US should maintain rail access for chems - group

15 July 2008 17:51  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A US chemical trade group said on Tuesday that it has urged regulators to require railroads to carry hazardous chemicals, warning that shifting distribution to tank trucks would increase costs, delays and accidents.

Railroads are seeking relief from potential liability issues stemming from the transport of hazardous chemicals.

The US Surface Transportation Board (STB) will hold a hearing on 22 July, which will focus on the common-carrier obligations. Such obligations require railroads to be open to all customers who want to use them.

The board's hearing will focus on chlorine, ammonia and other toxic inhalation materials (TIH).

Chlorine and anhydrous ammonia are building blocks that are essential to the US, the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) said in testimony filed with the board. "The economic impact of a lack of rail service to transport these materials would be severe," the group said.

If transportation were shifted to trucks, more personnel would be needed to safely load and unload the chemicals, the board said. Moreover, fuel consumption would increase because more trucks would be required to transport the chemicals.

In fact, the NACD estimated that one rail car can carry the same volume as 4-8 tank trucks.

"Rail is the safest and most efficient mode of transportation because of the large volume capacity of rail cars and a strong rail safety record," the NACD said.

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By: Al Greenwood
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