7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131 • (216) 241-2630 / Fax: (216) 241-6516

News and Issues
User Info

Tighter rule on hazardous rail cargo is ready

(The following article by Matthew L. Wald was posted on the New York Times website on December 14.)

WASHINGTON -- Seeking to make rail shipments of chlorine and other hazardous chemicals less vulnerable to attack, the Homeland Security Department intends to announce a proposed rule on Friday to require railroads to track continuously tanker cars for “toxic inhalation hazards” and bar them from leaving the cars unattended or parked for long periods.

The proposal would also clarify how government workers inspect tank cars and railyards for compliance, establish rules on the chain of custody and handoff of dangerous cargoes and set communications requirements.

Each year, the railroads carry 1.7 million shipments of hazardous materials, of which 100,000 are toxic chemicals prone to becoming airborne in an accident. About 80 percent of the shipments that can become poison gases are chlorine, for purifying water and other applications, or anhydrous ammonia, for fertilizer.

An official of the Homeland Security Department provided details of the plan on the condition that he not be identified further, because it has not been published. The plan is to be open for public comment for 60 days.

Among other changes, each railroad would have to have a round-the-clock security coordinator to receive tips on threats to cargoes and immediately inform the government of details like the location of cargo.

Many high-hazard cargoes move through densely populated areas, and some cities would like to ban them. The District of Columbia adopted an ordinance in February 2005 that requires permits for “ultra-hazardous materials,” including explosives, flammable liquids like liquefied petroleum gas, toxic solids and toxic gases, from an area extending 2.2 miles from the Capitol.

CSX, which operates a stretch of tracks between the Federal buildings just south of the Mall, challenged the ordinance in court as unduly burdensome to interstate commerce. Enforcement has been blocked while the case works its way through the federal courts.

Fred Millar, a consultant to the City Council who drafted the ordinance, said eight cities were weighing similar rules: Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

The new rule would not address routes. Such rules would be sensible, Mr. Millar said, but railroads did not like them because they might be forced to give business to one another.

Officials say that the Transportation Department is considering rules on routes that could be published soon.

The domestic security proposal is that carriers would have to establish security zones around affected rail cars parked, loaded or unloaded in urban areas.

More than five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, few federal rules specifically try to prevent terrorists from attacking materials on the rails. Train crews carry manifests showing what they carry and where, and there are coded placards on tank cars that identify the contents to emergency responders and anybody else with a readily available emergency response handbook.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Like us on Facebook at

Sign up for BLET News Flash Alerts

© 1997-2020 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen


Decertification Helpline
(216) 694-0240

National Negotiations

Sign up for BLET
News Flash Alerts


Pan Am Railways goes up for sale
An observer’s view of the Pan Am Railways sale
NJ Transit claims “major milestone” in PTC progress
Amtrak to reduce New York-Florida trains starting July 6, with more cuts coming October 1
SEPTA Regional Rail is coming back, but many of its suburban riders are still working from home
Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles set records for container movement
Nebraska Commission files complaint against railroads for blocked crossings
CN plans nearly C$1 billion in capital projects
Norfolk Southern sold its Roanoke headquarters building for $30 million, less than assessed value
Passenger rail between Duluth, Twin Cities hurt by lack of state backing
Port of Savannah calls 10% container volume drop “better than expected”
RRB begins paying CARES Act recovery payments for unemployed rail workers
Q&A: RRB reports performance under customer service plan
Get the latest labor news from the Teamsters

More Headlines