Friday, April 24, 2015

DOT “suggests” and FRA “recommends”: no safety in sight

DOT “suggests” and FRA “recommends”

Written by  David Schanoes    Railway Age    April 23, 2015
The U.S. Department of Transportation circulated a press release detailing actions taken to “address some of the issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail.”

First of these actions is FRA’s recommendation “that only the highest skilled inspectors conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids and that industry decrease the threshold for wayside detectors that measure wheel impacts, to ensure the wheel integrity of tank cars in those trains.”

I’ll pause a second, so you can read that again.

OK? Done? Good. Now I don’t know if this is the most inane recommendation ever made, but it’s close. And I know I’m a cynical, jaded person, but somehow I suspect DOT of . . . hedging. DOT is aware that the volume of hazmat shipments by rail has climbed to about 30,000 carloads per week (a number that, like all things in the economy, will fluctuate “with the market”). DOT knows that a comprehensive program, a systems approach, for reducing the likelihood of catastrophic release of content is the most effective and efficient way to address the risk to the public. However, DOT is reluctant to direct FRA to develop new rules, standards and requirements for the mechanical inspection of rolling stock and track to reduce that risk.

So DOT “suggests” and FRA “recommends,” and when another derailment occurs, FRA is left twisting slowly in the cold wind blowing from NTSB, while DOT proclaims it is developing a multi-agency approach—again.....

.... If DOT deems FRA’s standards for rolling stock inspection and ensuring safe train operations are no longer sufficient given a pattern of incidents, it is obligated to direct FRA to change the standard. That is FRA’s reason for existence as an agency of DOT.....

....If the safety of the public and the operating environment cannot be maintained to the desired level by the current methods employed, then DOT must require the application of new methods. Pretending that “elite” categories of employees making estimates based on obsolete technologies makes any difference is a pretense at addressing the problem.....
more here

see also:

Derailments Put Safety Record of Crude Oil Trains in Question

"A potential derailment would be unthinkable if it happened in a neighborhood like Pilsen, and other cities face the same threat,” said Shannon Breymaier, a spokesperson for the City of Chicago

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