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AFPM calls for more focus on derailments

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has sent a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) in response to recent recommendations for the retrofitting and replacement of tank cars. The letter notes the agency’s commitment to a holistic approach to crude by rail safety and asks that it use its position to hold the Department of Transportation (DOT) accountable for the prevention of derailments. The DOT’s final rule on enhanced tank car standards, which as proposed focuses on mitigation in the event of an incident, is expected to be announced in early May 2015.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data shows that there were over 1100 Class 1 derailments in 2014, averaging more than three each day with poor track integrity sited as the number one cause. According to the AFPM, efforts to enhance rail safety must begin with addressing track integrity and human factors, which combined account for the majority of derailments.

The DOT’s expected rail car standards will target primarily only one element of rail safety: mitigation. However, a balanced approach must address the lead cause of rail accidents: track integrity. Additionally, while NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart has emphasised the need to address prevention, mitigation and response, the agency’s recent recommendations focused on mitigation and failed to provide any measures that should be taken to prevent accidents in the first place.

“NTSB has traditionally pursued a holistic approach to rail safety, but the emphasis on tank car modifications through an overly aggressive and infeasible retrofit schedule creates the incorrect perception that tank car improvements are the magic remedy that will singularly improve crude by rail safety,” said AFPM President Charles T. Drevna. “Preventing derailments in the first place and focusing on the root causes of accidents still provides the greatest tool in enhancing crude by rail safety. When making safety recommendations for air transport, the NTSB doesn’t recommend that the FAA require indestructible planes. Instead, the focus is on preventing errors like mid air collisions, runway incursions and pilot error.”

A full version of the AFPM’s letter to the NTSB is available here.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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