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Feds Propose Safety Changes for Rail Tanker Cars Used to Transport Hazardous Materials

October 27, 2013

Rail tank cars can pose a serious hazard to those in the vicinity of a collision when the tanker car is ruptured in a train crash.  A recent Bloomberg report indicates that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has announced a proposal to improve the durability of rail tanker cars given the increased volume of hazardous substances and crude oil being transported by the vehicles.  The federal agency has indicated that the current durability standards for rail tank cars may not be adequate when train crashes occur.

The Bloomberg report indicates that a number of transportation safety investigators have characterized the tanker cars as “rupture-prone.”  The proposed rule is being considered in the wake of the devastating crash involving a similar tanker car transporting crude oil that was involved in a runaway train crash that caused a fire and explosion which claimed the lives of 47 victims.

The proposed rule change would mean that tanker cars used to transport hazmat materials would be made more puncture resistant to avoid the risk of similar fires and explosions if the tankers are involved in train crashes.  The tanker cars would also be equipped with stronger top fittings.  The proposed changes follow criticism regarding the durability of the tankers by transportation safety investigators throughout North America for more than two decades according to the Bloomberg report.  The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board also has referred to these tanker cars as having an “inadequate design” and a high frequency of failure during collisions.

Another factor in the closer scrutiny being devoted to the crashworthiness of these rail tanker cars is a product of the sharp increase in rail transport of crude oil and other hazardous substances.  The increased production of crude oil from shale fracking has been referenced by public safety experts as the explanation behind the increase in use of these tanker cars.  Rail cars transported over 108,000 loads of crude oil during the quarter that ended June 30 which set a record for the number of crude oil loads transported by tankers in a quarter reports Bloomberg.

When train accidents occur or trains derail, the result can be severe injury and wrongful death.  If the train involved in the collision is comprised of tanker cars containing hazardous substances, those in vehicles and homes in the vicinity of a train derailment also may face a risk of toxic exposure or injuries.  These accidents may be caused by distracted train engineers, poorly maintained equipment, defectively manufactured tanker cars or other negligent practices. 

If you or a family member is injured in a train accident, our Georgia train accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.