Problem oil tank cars may remain on the rails for years to come

Jul 14, 2016  | 2 min  | Ep4147

A recent increase in rail accidents involving the aging petroleum tank car fleet has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to ask railroad companies for a comprehensive plan to handle oil spills.

No matter what happens, the petroleum tank car fleet will be making a switchover. 

Older Oil tank cars, viewed as the culprits of many rail accidents, could remain in service for more than a decade. Under new federal rules, the rail industry has until 2029 to upgrade an aging fleet of tank cars to newer, safer models.

At least 27 accidents involving older tank cars transporting crude oil or ethanol have occurred in North America in the last decade. One of the worst was in Lac-Megantic, Quebec where 47 people died in 2013. Last month, near Mosier, Oregon, tankers damaged during a derailment spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil that erupted into a massive fire.

Lower oil prices and a reduction in the use of coal have translated into fewer rail shipments, allowing more time to switch to newer, safer tank cars. However, a loop hole in the regulations will allow older cars to be pressed back into service if there is an increase in demand.  

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy

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