NACD Emphasizes Safety, Efficiency of Hazmat Transport by Rail

The National Association of Chemical Distributors has filed written testimony with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in advance of next week's public hearing on the railroads’ common carrier obligation to transport hazardous materials. That hearing, to be held July 22, will focus exclusively on the railroads’ common carrier obligation to transport hazardous materials, particularly toxic inhalation materials (TIH), and follows an April 24-25 general hearing on the common carrier obligation.

NACD’s testimony, contained in a letter from NACD Vice President of Government & Public Affairs Jennifer Gibson to STB Acting Secretary Anne K. Quinlan, emphasizes the safety and efficiency of transporting hazardous materials, particularly TIH materials such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia, by rail. The testimony also outlines the problems that would occur, including substantial transportation cost increases, shipment delays, and opportunities for loading and unloading incidents, if railroads were to be relieved of their common carrier obligation and the transportation of TIH materials had to be shifted to trucks.

"Because TIH materials, particularly chlorine and anhydrous ammonia, are building blocks for so many products that are essential to Americans’ health and well-being, the economic impact of a lack of rail service to transport these materials would be severe," writes Gibson. "Shifting the transportation of these products to truck would result in the need for more personnel to safely load and unload the products and to drive the tank trucks. It would also require more fuel for all of the additional trucks on the road. With fuel prices continuing to increase, with no signs of dropping any time soon, this would substantially increase the costs of essential goods, ranging from food to medicine to clothing for all Americans. With fuel prices so high, it would be devastating to remove such an efficient mode of transportation for materials that are essential to so many aspects of the economy and public health."

In the letter containing the impending testimony, Gibson also urges the federal government to refrain from shifting railroads’ potential liability for hazmat incidents to shippers, stating that this would reduce the incentive for the railroads to run safer operations in order to avoid incidents such as those that occurred in Minot, N.D., in 2002, and Graniteville, S.C., in 2005, both of which the National Transportation Safety Board found to be the result of railroad infrastructure and operational failures.

To view the full testimony, go towww.nacd.com/advocacy/comments.aspx.

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