On April 23, 2014, in response to recommendations made after the Lac-Mégantic train derailment in July 2013, Canada’s Ministry of Transport issued Protective Direction No. 34 requiring the immediate phase out of the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service. There are approximately 5,000 DOT-111 tank cars without continuous bottom reinforcement that must be immediately removed from transporting dangerous goods such as crude oil and ethanol.

As for any tank cars on the move on the date of the Direction, these cars must reach their final destination within 30 days and then be immediately removed from service. All tank car owners must ensure that each of their DOT-111 tank cars is “marked with the words ‘Do not load with dangerous goods in Canada/Ne pas charger de marchandises dangereuses au Canada’ or similar words.”

In January 2014, Transport Canada proposed a new standard for “DOT-111 tank cars, including thicker steel and additional top fitting and head shield protection.” Working with U.S. regulatory agencies and other stakeholders, the Ministry plans to formalize updated DOT-111 standards in the summer of 2014. With Protective Direction No. 34, any tank cars built before the proposed standard and used to transport dangerous goods must be now phased out or retrofitted within three years.

In addition to the Protective Direction, the Ministry issued an Emergency Directive and a Ministerial Order outlining further requirements.

  • Trains carrying one or more cars of crude oil or ethanol (“Key Train”) must not exceed 50 mph, which speed may be lowered for some locations after specific risk assessments for particular urban populations and sensitive assets such as water sources.
  • Within six months, all companies must complete a risk assessment to determine the level of risk associated with each route over which Key Trains are operated. The assessment must identify safety and security risks associated with each route, including the volume of goods moved, the class of track, the maintenance schedule for the track, the curvature of the track, environmentally sensitive areas along the route, population density, emergency response capability, and any areas of high consequence along the track. Alternative routes must be identified and compared.

It must be noted that, in Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 30, 2014, at least 13 tank cars of a 105-car tank car train derailed and caught fire, with flames shooting 100 feet into the air. Three of the cars fell into the James River. According to officials, the train was traveling at just 24 miles per hour at the time of the accident. This incident comes just one week after the out-going chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board warned that the rail industry was falling behind on its oil shipping safety measures.

For additional information on transporting crude oil by rail, click here, here, and here.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.