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U.S. NTSB updates list of most wanted safety improvements

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (U.S. NTSB) recently unveiled its list of most wanted safety improvements for the transportation sector in 2019-2020.

Launched in 1990, the most wanted list serves as a primary advocacy tool to help save lives, prevent injuries and reduce property damage resulting from transportation accidents, U.S. NTSB officials said in a press release. In 2017, the U.S. NTSB changed it from an annual to biennial list to provide list developers and recipients more time to implement recommendations, some of which are longstanding safety issues the board believes continue to threaten the traveling public.

The 10 items on the 2019-20 list are:
• eliminate distractions;
• end alcohol and other drug impairment;
• ensure the safe shipment of hazardous materials;
• fully implement positive train control (PTC);
• implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeding-related crashes;
• improve the safety of certain aircraft flight operations;
• increase the implementation of collision avoidance systems in new highway vehicles;
• reduce fatigue-related accidents;
• screen for and treat obstructive sleep apnea; and
• strengthen occupant protection.

Hazmat Safety

In terms of hazmat safety, the NTSB is calling on the rail industry to meet existing federal deadlines for replacing or retrofitting tank cars. More than 2 million miles of pipeline deliver 24 percent of the natural gas and 39 percent of the total oil consumed in the United States, yet only 16 percent of U.S. rail tank cars carrying flammable liquids meet the improved safety specifications for DOT-117/DOT-117R cars. Failure to meet safety standards by or ahead of deadlines places communities near tracks at unacceptable risks, board members believe.

The U.S. NTSB investigations have shown that moving ethanol by rail and crude oil by pipeline can be unnecessarily hazardous. These essential commodities must be conveyed in a manner that ensures the safety of those who are transporting it as well as those in the communities it passes through.

There are 267 open safety recommendations associated with the current most wanted list and the board is focused on implementing 46 of them within the next two years, U.S. NTSB officials said. The majority of the recommendations — roughly two-thirds — seek critical safety improvements by means other than regulation, they said.

“We at the NTSB can speak on these issues. We can testify by invitation to legislatures and to Congress, but we have no power of our own to act,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “We are counting on industry, advocates and government to act on our recommendations.”

Five New U.S. Hazmat Rules to Look for in 2018

By Roger Marks, Lion Technology Inc.

Ask a U.S. dangerous goods (DG) professional to name the most challenging part of his or her job, and you’re likely to hear about dense regulatory standards that overlap and seem to change on a near daily basis.

As dangerous goods shippers, freight forwarders, and carriers roll into 2018, new rules for hazmat air and vessel shipments are already in effect.  In addition, U.S. DOT’s Pipeline and the U.S. Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) plans to start finalizing new hazmat rules as soon as February 2018.

Here, we’ll review the new U.S. DG air and vessel requirements that are mandatory now and review five new or changing U.S. DOT hazmat rules most likely to hit the books as Final Rules this year.

New IATA DGR Rules for Air Shippers

For hazmat air shippers, the 59th Edition of the International Air Transport Association’s Dangerous Goods Regulations, or IATA DGR, is in effect as of January 1, 2018.  The 59th Edition of the IATA DGR includes stricter requirements for lithium batteries shipped by air, a re-ordered list of Class 9 materials in Subsection 3.9.1, and a new Appendix I that details changes planned for air shippers in 2019.

Just before January 1st, IATA published the first Addendum to the 2018 DGR, which includes additional updates for air shippers and airline passengers.  IATA uses these addendums to make ongoing revisions to the current DGR before the publication of the next edition.

2016 IMDG Code Mandatory as of January 1st

Compliance with the latest International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, or IMDG Code, is also mandatory as of January 1.  Updates made in the 2016 edition, compliance with which was voluntary throughout last year, are now officially in force.  These include new dangerous goods marking and labeling criteria; new packing instructions for certain shipments of engines, lithium batteries, and aerosols; and adjustments to the IMDG Code Dangerous Goods List.

The U.S. DOT, along with other federal agencies, recently released a semiannual agenda of rulemaking activities, many of which will impact hazardous materials professionals in 2018. The five rulemakings below, in progress now, are all scheduled to be published as final rules before Fall 2018.

  1. Enhanced Safety Provisions for Lithium Batteries by Air (RIN 2137-AF20

Expected in February 2018, this Interim Final Rule will harmonize the 49 CFR hazmat regulations with evolving international standards for shipping lithium batteries by air.  International requirements already in effect under the latest IATA DGR will now be adopted into 49 CFR and include:

  • Prohibiting lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft;
  • Limiting state-of-charge to 30%; and
  • Limiting the use of alternate provisions for small cells or batteries by air.

Lithium battery requirements are one area of the hazmat regulations that have changed rapidly in the past decade and will continue to evolve as regulators and industry learn more about the potential and hazards of these batteries.

Melted mobile phone caused from lithium battery explosion

  1. Response to Industry Petitions—RIN 2137-AF09

Under regulations found at U.S. 49 CFR 106.95, interested parties may petition US DOT to amend, remove, or add hazmat regulations to enhance safety, streamline the CFR text, or boost efficiency for shippers and carriers.  In 2018, PHMSA plans to address 19 such petitions from hazmat stakeholders to provide clarification and/or relief within the hazmat shipping regulations.

Petitions to be addressed include an increase to the service life of certain hazmat tank cars and removing the emergency response number requirement for shipments of excepted quantities of hazardous materials.

This final rule is also expected in February 2018.

  1. Miscellaneous Amendments Pertaining to DOT Specification Cylinders (RIN 2137-AE80)

The U.S. DOT will address various petitions from industry stakeholders pertaining to the manufacture, maintenance, and use of DOT specification cylinders.  The rulemaking will also incorporate two existing hazmat special permits into the U.S. 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

DOT expects to issue this final rule in April 2018.

 EPA’s Electronic Hazardous Waste Manifest System

Technically speaking, this one is a U.S. EPA rulemaking — but it does have consequences for hazmat shippers.  The Hazardous Waste Manifest is a shipping paper required for the transport of hazardous waste, and hazardous waste is regulated in transport as a hazardous material by US DOT.

On January 3rd, 2018, the U.S. EPA published a final rule to guide the process of setting and collecting fees from users of the electronic Manifest system.  Rollout of the long-planned e-Manifest system will begin in earnest on June 30th of this year, when the U.S. EPA plans to implement the system for collecting domestic hazardous waste manifests and domestic shipments of State-only regulated hazardous wastes.

As for how it will work, the U.S. EPA has determined that charging user fees to treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) and State-only waste receiving facilities is “the most effective and efficient means” of collecting user fees to fund the administration of the e-Manifest system.

  1. Oil Spill Response Plans for High-Hazard Flammable Trains

    High Hazard Flammable Train

    (RIN 2137-AF08)

This year, the U.S. DOT will promulgate a Final Rule to expand the applicability of oil spill response plans for trains transporting Class 3 flammable liquids in certain volumes and orientations across the train.

The bolstered requirements will apply to High-Hazard Flammable Trains, or HHFTs. A “High-Hazard Flammable Train” is a train carrying 20 cars of a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block or 36 or more such cars across the entire train. Crude oil production and transport volumes have risen significantly in the past decade:  In 2009, 10,800 rail car loads of crude oil traveled by Class I railroad.  By 2015, that number had skyrocketed to over 400,000.1

The U.S. DOT plans to issue this final rule in July 2018.

These likely won’t be the only changes for U.S. hazmat shippers in 2018.  But, by identifying the future regulations or updates that may impact operations, shippers, brokers, and carriers can avoid confusion and panic when DOT finalizes the new rules.

 

Footnotes

  • *See 79 FR 45019

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About the Author

Roger Marks is a researcher and writer at Lion Technology Inc., a provider of 49 CFR, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code dangerous goods training in the US.  Now in his 7th year at Lion, Roger creates content to inform and empower EHS professionals, and closely monitors developing regulatory actions that impact hazmat shipping, hazardous waste management, environmental compliance, and OSHA workplace safety.  Find nationwide public workshops, 24/7 online training solutions, and live webinars at www.Lion.com.

This article is republished and first appeared on OHS Online.

 

Technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands

Author: Chris Bachmann, Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo

As the trial of the 2013 Lac-Megantic rail disaster begins, new policies and practices that aim to employ better technology could help avoid similar disasters in the future.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) found more than 18 distinct causes and contributing factors in the Lac-Megantic derailment investigation, which makes the likelihood of this type of accident seem nearly impossible.

An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the deadly fire and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013. (Photo Credit: CBC)

Yet other derailments in Canada involving dangerous goods would soon follow in 2014 in Plaster Rock, N.B. and Clair, Sask., and two incidents in 2015 in Gogama, Ont.

This suggests that we must be mindful of the connection between human interactions and technology and how each will continue to underlie many causes and contributing factors of future incidents.

As a civil engineering professor who researches transportation infrastructure, dangerous goods and risk, I see several new developments and changes to technology and policy that can help to reduce future accidents.

Safer tank car standards

The type of tank cars involved in the Lac-Megantic accident (“Class 111”) were known to be vulnerable to failure, even in low-speed accidents (e.g., Cornwall, Ont. in 1999).

After Lac-Megantic, Canada and the United States developed a more robust tank car standard, Class 117. This new standard features improved puncture resistance, structural strength and fractural resistance.

Despite these improvements, Canadian and U.S. regulations will still allow Class 111 tank cars to be used for the transport of certain dangerous goods until mid-2025.

Even so, Canada accelerated the phase-out of the older Class 111 tank cars from being used for crude oil service in Canada as of Nov. 1, 2016, under Protective Direction 38.

Enhanced braking

In addition to new tank car standards, the U.S. is requiring enhanced braking standards on trains carrying flammable goods.

Any train with a continuous block of 20 tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid, or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed throughout a train, must have a functioning two-way end-of-train (EOT) device — an electronic unit that can be mounted on the end of a freight train instead of a caboose — or a distributed power (DP) braking system, which spreads braking across different points throughout a train.

Furthermore, any train with 70 or more loaded tank cars containing flammable liquids travelling at speeds greater than 48 km/h must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by May 1, 2023.

In short, these technologies enable more controlled braking behaviour through a more responsive and uniform application of brake pressure. Benefits would include shorter stopping distances, lower risks of derailment and lower pile-up effects in the event of a derailment.

More information sharing

Technology also allows more information sharing for better decision-making. For example, Protective Direction No. 36 in Canada requires railways to provide municipalities with dangerous goods reports, including information on the number of unit trains, percentage of railway cars transporting dangerous goods, information on their nature and volume and number of trains.

This information is intended to inform emergency planning and responses.

The U.S. is also requiring more accurate classification of unrefined petroleum-based products to ensure proper classification, packaging and record-keeping through a documented sampling and testing process. This information is to be made available to the Department of Transportation upon request.

Human factors

The technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands — just as it was in 2013. While these and future technologies are likely to reduce the risks of transporting dangerous goods across Canada and the United States, the interactions between humans and other elements of the system — the “human factors” — will remain predominant.

As we now know in the Lac-Megantic accident, the train carrying 7.7 million litres of crude oil sped toward the small Quebec town at 104 km/h before derailing, killing 47 people in the resulting fire and explosions on July 6, 2013.

Hours before derailing, the train was parked and left running on the main track in Nantes, Que., awaiting departure. But shortly after the engineer parked the train, a locomotive engine caught fire and was turned off by the Nantes fire department.

Without power from the running locomotive engine, air slowly leaked from the air brake system. An insufficient number of handbrakes were applied and the train eventually began rolling downhill on its final journey toward Lac-Megantic.

Some of the causes and contributing factors in the Lac-Megantic rail disaster were not technical failures so much as they were failures of humans to properly interact with technology: To properly maintain a locomotive engine, to have knowledge of interactions between locomotive engines and air brake systems and to properly set and test the effectiveness of handbrakes.

Although technical standards were less stringent in 2013, technology did not fail us. In many of the causes and contributing factors of Lac-Megantic, it is evident that we failed to understand and interact with our technology.

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Disclosure information is available on the original site. To read the original article:

https://theconversation.com/technology-to-prevent-rail-disasters-is-https://theconvers

About the Author

Chris Bachmann is an Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo.  His research interests include the interaction between transportation and economics, trade, energy, transportation network resiliency/criticality/robustness/vulnerability, risk, dangerous goods movement, transport economics, transport project and policy evaluation.