Safety Recommendation R-14-004
Details
Synopsis: On July 5, 2013, at 10:45 p.m. eastern daylight time, MMA freight train MMA-002 was proceeding eastbound on the MMA Sherbrooke Subdivision, en route from Montréal, Quebec, to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. The train was 4,700 feet long and weighed more than 10,000 tons. The train was composed of 5 head-end locomotives, a special-purpose caboose equipped to remotely control the locomotives, 1 loaded boxcar used as a buffer car, and 72 US Department of Transportation (DOT) Specification 111 general service tank cars (DOT-111) loaded with petroleum crude oil. The waybills described the product in the tank cars as Petroleum Crude Oil, UN1267, Class 3, Packing Group III. The crude oil originated from a tank truck-to-rail car transloading facility in New Town, North Dakota, and was destined for an oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. The Canadian Pacific Railway transported the tank cars from New Town to Montréal, where the train was conveyed to the MMA with the same waybill information. About 11:00 p.m., the engineer stopped the train at the designated MMA crew change point at milepost 7.40 near Nantes, Quebec. He left the lead locomotive idling and then departed the area, leaving the train unattended on the mainline track. The track had a descending grade of about 1.2 percent toward the town of Lac-Mégantic. About 11:40 p.m., a nearby resident called the 911 emergency call center to report a fire on the idling locomotive. The local fire department responded, and the MMA dispatched an employee to assist the fire department personnel. About midnight, the responders initiated emergency shutdown procedures on the locomotive and extinguished the fire. The fire department and MMA personnel then departed the location, leaving the train unattended. Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on July 6, 2013, the unattended train started to move, and it gathered speed, rolling uncontrolled for 7.4 miles down the descending grade into Lac-Mégantic. As the train entered the center of Lac-Mégantic, it was moving well over the authorized speed. The boxcar and 63 loaded crude oil tank cars derailed near the center of Lac-Mégantic. The locomotives separated from the train and came to rest about 1/2 mile east of the derailment. At least 60 of the 63 derailed DOT-111 tank cars released about 1.6 million gallons of crude oil. Some of the spilled oil ignited immediately. The fire engulfed the derailed cars and the surrounding area. Forty-seven people died as a result of the fire, and nearby structures were destroyed or extensively damaged. The fire was extinguished by noon on July 7, 2013. About 2,000 people evacuated the surrounding area.
Recommendation: TO THE PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Work with the Federal Railroad Administration to expand hazardous materials route planning and selection requirements for railroads under Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 172.820 to include key trains transporting flammable liquids as defined by the Association of American Railroads Circular No. OT-55-N and, where technically feasible, require rerouting to avoid transportation of such hazardous materials through populated and other sensitive areas.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, CA
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA13SR006
Accident Reports:
Report #: None
Accident Date: 7/6/2013
Issue Date: 1/23/2014
Date Closed: 7/12/2016
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: PHMSA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 7/12/2016
Response: We are pleased that HM-251 expands the applicability of route planning and selection requirements to HHFTs in section 172.820. The revised regulation requires rail carriers operating HHFTs to complete the initial process of compiling commodity data by March 31, 2015. Rail carriers operating HHFTs must then analyze the safety and security risks for the transportation route(s) identified in the commodity data. In performing the analysis, the rail carrier must seek relevant information from state, local, and tribal officials, as appropriate, regarding security risks to high-consequence targets along or in proximity to the route(s) used. For each calendar year, the rail carrier must identify practicable alternative routes over which it has authority to operate and perform a safety and security risk assement to compare the routes using the criteria in appendix D to Part 172. The carrier must use this analysis at least once each year to select the route to be used in moving the HHFTs that poses the least overall safety and security risk. If the carrier’s route selection and underlying analysis are found to be deficient, the carrier may be required to revise its analysis or the FRA, in consultation with the Transportation Security Administration, may require the use of an alternate route. These procedures satisfy Safety Recommendation R-14-4, which is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/4/2015
Response: -From Timothy P. Butters, Deputy Administrator: This letter responds to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) April 3, 2015, letter urging the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to take action on new Safety Recommendations concerning rail transportation of Class 3 flammable liquids. These new Safety Recommendations, R-15-14 through R-15-17, resulted from the NTSB’s examination of damaged tank cars following the February 16, 2015, derailment of a CSX Transportation crude oil unit train in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, as well as a review of data collected from several other crude oil unit train accidents occurring in the same timeframe. These Safety Recommendations address the retrofit of Specification DOT-111 tank cars with thermal protection systems that are used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids (hereafter referred to as “flammable liquid”). We thank the NTSB for its vigilance on this transportation safety issue and its continued investigative efforts to improve rail transportation safety for crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids. We share your commitment to enhancing the safety of rail transportation, and are pleased to inform you that Secretary Anthony R. Foxx has signed and announced a final rule entitled “Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251). Pending publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, we posted the signed version at our website homepage for public viewing. This rule focuses on prevention, mitigation, and response, to manage and reduce the risk posed by the transportation of flammable liquids by rail tank car. Through tremendous collaborative efforts with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), we established a comprehensive solution designed to reduce the probability and minimize the consequences of an accident. We have adopted risk mitigation requirements that address braking, classification, operating speeds, and routing to reduce the probability of accidents. Finally, we adopted enhanced design and performance standards for rail tank cars in flammable liquid service to minimize the consequence of an accident. The required safety measures and the timeline for phase-out and retrofit of legacy tank cars used in high-hazard flammable train (HHFT)a service will strike a balance between the safety needs of rail transportation of flammable liquids and the economic viability of the rail industry. Upon consideration of shop capacity, the comments received on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and the potential impacts associated with the retrofit schedule, PHMSA recognizes the need to upgrade the rail car fleet, but finds that a targeted phase-out of the DOT-111 tank cars is the most prudent and protective approach. We concur. The final rule expands the applicability of route planning and selection requirements to include HHFTs. Rail carriers transporting HHFTs will be required to perform additional safety and security planning (route planning) requirements to include compilation of commodity flow data, route(s) analysis including identification of alternatives, and determination of the safest, most secure route(s). We note that an overwhelming majority of commenters to our proposed rule expressed support for additional routing requirements for HHFTs and that the NTSB commented it believes that the proposed requirement, if implemented, would satisfy the intent of this recommendation.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 12/12/2014
Response: We are aware that you have proposed expanding the route planning and selection requirements in 49 CFR section 172.820 to apply to HHFTs and that, as of July 1, 2014, rail carriers have been voluntarily applying the route planning and selection requirements of 49 CFR section 172.820 to trains carrying 20 or more cars of crude oil. Pending completion of the recommended action, Safety Recommendation R-14-4 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/4/2014
Response: -From Timothy P. Butters, Administrator: This letter provides an update on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) recent and future actions to address the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-12-5, R-12-6, R-14-4, R-14-5, and R-14-6. NTSB issued Safety Recommendations R-12-5 and R-12-6 as a result of its investigation of the June 19, 2009 train derailment in Cherry Valley, Illinois. NTSB issued Safety Recommendations R-14-4, R-14-5, and R-14-6 as a result of its participation in Canada’s Transportation Safety Board investigation of the July 6, 2013 derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic freight train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. On August 1, 2014, PHMSA, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published two notices relevant to the above-referenced NTSB Safety Recommendations. The first is an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) entitled “Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251B; 79 FR 45079). The second is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251; 79 FR 45015). These notices propose changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 C.F.R. Parts 171-180) that are relevant to the above-referenced NTSB Safety Recommendations, including: •?Improved tank car standards for new and existing high-hazard flammable trains (HHFTs), proposed to be defined as a train consisting of twenty or more carloads of Class 3 flammable liquid (NPRM); •?Expanded rail route planning and selection requirements that would include HHFTs (NPRM); •?Enhanced frequency, methods, and documentation requirements for sampling and testing of mined gases and liquids for the purpose of classification and characterization (NPRM); and •?Extended comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements that would include HHFTs (ANPRM). The comment period on the ANPRM and NPRM closed on September 30, 2014. PHMSA and FRA are currently reviewing comments and anticipate issuing a corresponding NPRM and Final Rule PHMSA’s and FRA’s completed and planned actions with respect to these NTSB recommendations are discussed below. PHMSA’s recent NPRM (HM-251) proposes to expand the route planning and selection requirements in 49 C.F.R. § 172.820 to apply to HHFTs, as NTSB recommends in Safety Recommendation R-14-4. This proposed rule would require rail carriers to assess available routes using twenty-seven factors, such as proximity to populated and other sensitive areas, when analyzing and selecting routes for HHFTs. Furthermore, as outlined in PHMSA’s June 11, 2014 update, as of July 1, 2014 rail carriers are voluntarily applying the route planning and selection requirements of 49 C.F.R. § 172.820 to trains carrying twenty or more cars of crude oil. As such, during the pendency of PHMSA’s rulemaking, route planning and selection requirements have already been extended to HHFTs carrying crude oil.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 9/29/2014
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) August 1, 2014, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains. In this notice, PHMSA, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), proposes new operational requirements and improved tank car standards for certain trains transporting large volumes of hazard class 3 flammable liquids. It also proposes revising the general requirements for offerors to ensure proper classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids. PHMSA notes that the proposed requirements are designed to reduce the frequency and consequences of accidents involving certain trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids. The risks posed by such trains are illustrated in the catastrophic consequences of recent derailments at Casselton, North Dakota; Aliceville, Alabama; and Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. The NPRM also addresses Safety Recommendations R-14-4. We are pleased that you are taking a broad systems approach in this NPRM?encompassing accident prevention, mitigation, and emergency response—toward managing the safety risks posed by high-hazard flammable trains (HHFTs). PHMSA proposes to improve performance standards for existing tank cars and establish standards for new DOT specification 117 (DOT 117) and specification 117P (DOT-117P) tank cars. PHMSA also addresses classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids, requires rail routing risk assessment for HHFTs, requires notification to state emergency response commissions (SERC) of the operation of trains transporting 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil in their jurisdictions, and requires reduced operating speeds and enhanced braking. The NTSB emphasizes the importance of implementing the six safety recommendations listed above as rapidly as possible. Furthermore, we are also concerned about several aspects of the proposed regulations: 1. The proposed requirements for notifying state agencies about rail shipments of hazardous materials through their territories do not include ethanol. 2. The proposed notification requirements are limited to shipments of crude oil from only one area (Bakken formation). 3. The proposed classification and characterization rules do not apply to all hazardous materials. 4. The proposed classification and characterization rules do not include specific requirements for the sampling and testing needed to properly characterize hazardous materials destined for rail shipment. 5. The proposed speed restrictions are based on a large populated area rather than on a potential impact radius where individuals could be harmed along flammable liquids rail corridors. 6. The proposed enhanced standards for new and existing tank cars offer options that do not achieve an acceptable level of safety and protection. 7. The proposed alternative tank car performance standards lack impact-resistance metrics. 8. The proposed retrofitting requirements for existing DOT-111 tank cars do not require top fittings protection. 9. The proposed bulk packaging standards would allow existing legacy DOT-111 fleet to remain in flammable liquid service on trains not designated as HHFTs. Safety Recommendation R-14-4 urges PHMSA to include “key trains” carrying flammable liquids in its route-planning requirement. The recommendation refers to the definition of key train in AAR Circular No. OT-55-N, which lists 20 tank cars of any combination of hazardous material as the threshold number of tank cars in the consist. We believe that the proposed rule, if implemented, would satisfy the intent of Safety Recommendation R-14-4, which urges PHMSA to (1) expand the hazardous materials route planning and selection requirements for railroads under 49 CFR 172.820 to include key trains transporting flammable liquids, and (2) to require rerouting to avoid transporting hazardous materials through sensitive areas. You propose to expand current 49 CFR 172.820(a) by making it applicable to HHFTs. You also propose to create a new section, 49 CFR 174.310, which would subject HHFTs to the additional requirements in Part 172, Subpart I, for developing security plans for the transportation of hazardous materials. Proposed 49 CFR 174.310(a)(1) would require rail carriers that operate HHFTs to analyze the safety and security risks along the routes where such trains operate, to assess alternate routing options, and to make routing decisions based on the assessments. Rail carriers would be required to conduct an annual analysis addressing 27 risk factors, such as volume of hazardous materials transported; track type, class, and maintenance schedule; track grade and curvature; environmentally sensitive or significant areas; population density along the route; emergency response capability along the route; and areas of high consequence along the route, as defined in 49 CFR 172.820(c). Carriers would also be required to identify alternate routes over which it has the authority to operate and to perform a safety and security risk assessment of those routes. Carriers would be required to use their risk analysis to select viable routes that pose the lowest overall safety and security risk. In referring to the AAR circular, we intended to suggest using a preexisting industry standard for route planning, but not to endorse a 20-tank-car threshold for HHFTs. We caution you not to use Safety Recommendation R-14-4 to imply that we endorse a 20-tank-car threshold for any other purpose. Question 3. To what extent do the covered hazardous materials, including crude oil and ethanol, have differing risks when they are in HHFTs? As demonstrated in recent accidents, the two products have a similar potential for causing injuries, fires, energetic fireball eruptions, and property damage. Although the products behave differently in the environment and require different strategies for firefighting, containment, and cleanup, they pose similar hazards to property and persons, and should be treated similarly in the regulations. We believe that crude oil and ethanol should have identical packaging and operational requirements. PHMSA also seeks comment on the definition of an HHFT. We believe the definition should include a broad range of hazardous materials, similar to the revised definition of a key train in AAR Circular No. OT–55–N. The circular’s reference to “any combination of hazardous material” includes hazard class 2, division 2.1 (flammable gas) materials and combustible liquids, as defined at 49 CFR 173.115(a) and 173.120(b). The provisions of the AAR circular demonstrate that the railroad industry recognizes that additional safety precautions, including speed restrictions, are needed for key trains that transport any hazardous materials. The proposed rule should be at least as protective as the AAR circular and should therefore apply to class 2 flammable gases such as liquefied petroleum gas. We believe that the proposed rule, if implemented, would satisfy the intent of Safety Recommendation R-14-4, which urges PHMSA to (1) expand the hazardous materials route planning and selection requirements for railroads under 49 CFR 172.820 to include key trains transporting flammable liquids, and (2) to require rerouting to avoid transporting hazardous materials through sensitive areas. You propose to expand current 49 CFR 172.820(a) by making it applicable to HHFTs. You also propose to create a new section, 49 CFR 174.310, which would subject HHFTs to the additional requirements in Part 172, Subpart I, for developing security plans for the transportation of hazardous materials. Proposed 49 CFR 174.310(a)(1) would require rail carriers that operate HHFTs to analyze the safety and security risks along the routes where such trains operate, to assess alternate routing op

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 7/29/2014
Response: We note that you have initiated action with the FRA, in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security and the AAR to address this issue, and that you and the FRA will address rail routing in future rulemaking. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-14-4 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE pending completion of the recommended action.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 6/11/2014
Response: -From Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator: Significant progress was made by the DOT with regard to NTSB Recommendation R-14-4 before the recommendation was issued. On January 9, 2014, Secretary Anthony Foxx issued a "Call to Action," to challenge stakeholders from the rail and crude oil industries to implement immediate safety measures. On January 16, 2014, Secretary Foxx, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro, and I convened a meeting with stakeholders from the rail and oil industries requesting them to identify prevention, mitigation and response strategies that could be implemented immediately to enhance the safe transportation of crude oil by rail. During that meeting the rail industry agreed to pursue a number of actions, including applying the OT-55-N routing protocol to "key trains" consisting of 20 or more tank cars of crude oil. Subsequently, on January 22, 2014, the AAR confirmed its agreement to, by no later than July 1, 2014, apply the routing requirements (49 CFR § 172.820) to trains carrying more than 20 cars of crude oil. 3 In addition, the AAR agreed to further address risks of unit trains of crude oil by restricting speeds for trains carrying more than 20 cars of crude oil to 50 mph and restricting speeds for trains carrying more than 20 cars of crude oil with at least one DOT -111 or nonspecification tank cars traveling through high threat urban areas as designated by the Department of Homeland Security to 40 mph. AAR's agreement to expand the routing requirements to trains carrying more than 20 cars of crude oil is an important step in reducing the risk of future accidents. PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) plan to address rail routing in future rulemaking.