DOT Proposed Rail Regulations Would Create Demand for 370,000 Truckloads of Crude Oil and Ethanol on North American Highways

The RSI-CTC Calls for Harmonization in US and Canadian Rulemaking Process

Washington, D.C. – Oct. 1, 2014 – In comments sent to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) yesterday, the Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC) commended the government’s efforts to create new regulations for the shipment of crude oil and ethanol. At the same time, the comments warned of significant disruption to safety and to major sectors of the North American economy if mismatched rulemakings were to be implemented separately by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Transport Canada. These disruptions include the loss of a significant portion of the rail tank car fleet during the modification period, and unintended consequences such as a potential increase in truck shipments of flammable liquids on highways.

To address these potential disruptions and safety hazards, the RSI-CTC called for greater harmonization between the two rulemaking bodies in the U.S. and Canada, and provided insight and specific recommendations across a range of issues that will help reduce the risk of transporting flammable liquids by rail in North America. The comments also urged DOT to focus more on the root causes of most derailments which continue to be track failure and human error, not tank car design.

“For years we have been advocating for a holistic approach to safety that will prevent train derailments and address tank car standards, among other issues,” said Tom Simpson, President of RSI. “In our comments today, we reiterated our positions and offered a comprehensive set of practical recommendations that will bring the greatest safety benefit in the quickest ways possible. For instance, we believe the timelines for modifications in the U.S. and Canada should be synchronized and feasible to avoid major disruptions of service. Moreover, the specifications for new tank cars and the rules for packaging of flammable liquids need to match up across North America. Without making these important changes to align the rules, the effect will be to deplete the fleet of tank cars available for service, and those effects to safety and the economy cannot be underestimated.”

RSI-CTC and independent third-party research show that the proposed U.S. rules—in their current form—would effectively force approximately 90,000 tank cars to be withdrawn from service at various times during the modification program and parked until the shop capacity required to carry out the necessary modifications becomes available. Between 2018 and 2020, thirty to fifty percent of the total crude oil and ethanol tank car fleet would be idled at any given time. To replace the loss in 2017, the year the first compliance deadline hits, theoretically it would require 20,000 trucks carrying more than 370,000 truckloads on North American highways, a practical impossibility and potentially more hazardous outcome given the safety risk associated with transport by truck.

In its 59 page comments to PHMSA, the RSI-CTC supports a “commodity-based approach” for selecting the proper tank car that requires shippers to ensure materials are appropriately and safely packaged. The RSI-CTC also asked PHMSA to differentiate the requirements for new and existing cars, which will allow more new or modified cars with enhanced safety features to be put into service more quickly, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. In addition, the RSI-CTC’s comments offer recommendations on how to optimize braking systems, thermal protection systems and fabrication of new tank shells using normalized steel, among other technical specifications. The comments further set out a timeline that accounts for the complexity of the modifications and the practical limitations of shop capacity and available resources to complete the modifications.

“The members of the RSI-CTC have demonstrated a strong commitment to safety. Together, the industry has voluntarily invested more than $7 billion to add tank jackets and full-height head shields, which bring the greatest improvements in tank car design and safety. We look forward to the speedy implementation of comprehensive regulations that will bring greater certainty to the market, improve the safety of rail transportation, and allow us to continue to innovate,” said Mr. Simpson.

For additional information on RSICTC’s comments and recommendations to PHMSA, please visit:

View RSI-CTC Modifications on HM-251Executive Summary Fact Sheet (10/1/14) [PDF]

View RSI-CTC Position on HM-251 Modifications Fact Sheet (10/1/14) [PDF]

View RSI-CTC Comments PHMSA Proposed Regulations for HM-251_093014 (10/1/14) [PDF]

Contact: Bob Brady,  Xenophon Strategies,, 202-289-4001


About The Railway Supply Institute

The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) is the international trade association for the rail supply industry, representing the nation’s leading companies involved in the manufacture of products and services in the freight car, tank car, locomotive, maintenance-of-way, communications and signaling, and passenger rail industries. America’s railway suppliers represent a $23 billion/year industry supporting 90,000 American workers. The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC) is focused on increasing safety of rail tank cars. The membership of the RSI-CTC includes major manufacturers and lessors of rail tank cars who build more than 95 percent and own or lease over 70 percent of tank cars operating in North America.