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Railway car manufacturers won't talk safety despite concerns

Railway car manufacturers won't talk safety despite concerns  from: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/04/18/railway-car-manufacturers-wont-talk-safety-despite-concerns
 

By ,National Bureau

First posted: Friday, April 18, 2014 05:52 PM EDT | Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014 06:00 PM EDT

 

tankers-dot
Dozens of DOT-111 tankers parked on the railroad tracks. MAXIME LANDRY/QMI Agency

The five companies that control the market refused to talk to QMI Agency about how many cars they can make in one year and how much production would cost.

Despite the fact it's been almost a year since the derailment disaster at Lac-Megantic Que., there is still no concrete timeline to replace the dangerous and aging fleet of DOT-111 tankers that transport millions of litres of crude across the country every year.

The vast majority of DOT-111 tankers on North American railroads have been called ticking time bombs because they puncture and explode more easily than the DOT-111s made after 2011.

Thomas Simpson, president of the Washington D.C.-based Railway Supply Institute, said there are five companies that make more than 95% of the North American oil tanker fleet.

The companies are National Steel Car in Hamilton, Ont.; Union Tank Car Company, headquartered in Chicago; Georgia-based Trinity Rail Operations; American Railcar Industries in St. Louis, Mo.; and The Greenbrier Companies, based in Oregon.

Greenbrier and American Railcar didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

Elise Johnson, spokeswoman for Trinity, said she was "not authorized" to talk about her company's manufacturing of the DOT-111 cars.

Bruce Winslow, spokesman for Union Tank Car, said that "because of the times," he was unable to answer any questions about the DOT-111s.

"There is no one here to talk to you about (DOT-111 manufacturing)," Winslow said, "even if it's what we do."

He wouldn't elaborate on what he meant by "the times."

Forty-seven people were killed last July when a crude-carrying runaway train with 72 DOT-111 tankers derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, a small town east of Montreal.

The tankers made after 2011 have thicker walls, are more puncture resistant, and have more protection for the front, back and top of the tanker.

Oil companies own most of the tankers in circulation and the best time estimate they can give to replace or retrofit the tankers to 2011 standards is between one and five years.

However, federal political parties and municipalities across the country say that answer isn't good enough.

There were 272,000 DOT-111 tankers cars operating in North America as of Oct. 1, 2013, according to Simpson, who speaks on behalf of railroad suppliers.

Simpson said about 171,000 DOT-111s transport hazardous material and 94,000 transport flammable liquids such as crude oil.

Only 14,000 of the DOT-111s currently in service were built to 2011 standards, he said.

The rail industry says over 99% of all rail shipments get to their destination safely.

However, the amount of crude oil shipped by rail across North America is increasing at a staggering rate.

Between 2009 and 2013, the number of carloads of crude shipped around the continent increased from 10,800 to 400,000, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt's office said she is "working directly" with a U.S. senator to strengthen the safety of tank cars and that the government will make an announcement on April 23 concerning the TSB's recommendation to phase out the DOT-111s.

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