NTSB Chairman Visiting Texas Rail Facility

Christopher Hart will use the April 16 visit to stress the safety board's urgent recommendations that flammable liquid rail cars be strengthened.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart will visit the Greenbrier Railcar Services facility in Hockley, Texas, on April 16, using the appearance to discuss the safety board's urgent recommendations issued on April 6 that rail cars carrying flammable liquids be retrofitted to be tougher and more fire resistant.

The board issued four recommendations that call for an aggressive schedule of replacing or retrofitting the existing rail car fleet with better thermal protection against heat from fires, perhaps through "a ceramic thermal blanket," and increasing the capacity of pressure relief devices.

"We can't wait a decade for safer rail cars," Hart said then. "Crude oil rail traffic is increasing exponentially, that is why this issue is on our Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements. The industry needs to make this issue a priority and expedite the safety enhancements. Otherwise, we continue to put our communities at risk."

The board has been concerned about DOT-111 tank cars for years, saying they rupture too quickly when exposed to a pool fire caused by a derailment or other accident with leaks and ignition. "And based on a series of accidents the Board has investigated in recent months, performance of the industry’s enhanced rail car, the CPC-1232, is not satisfactory under these conditions," according to its news release.

"The NTSB concludes that the thermal performance and pressure relief capacity of bare steel tank cars that conform to current federal and industry requirements is insufficient to prevent tank failures from pool fire thermal exposure and the resulting overpressurization," said NTSB's letter to Acting Administrator Timothy P. Butters of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

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