FAQs - Rail Safety and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods by rail

TSB Report

1. How is Transport Canada responding to TSB recommendations?

The department is thoroughly reviewing this detailed report, assessing these important recommendations on how to improve safety, and will provide a formal response within 90-days.

Following the events of July 2013, Transport Canada responded to early advisories from TSB, and took immediate action by establishing a two-person minimum for locomotive crews on trains carrying dangerous goods, and by imposing stricter rules for securing unattended trains.

Since then, Transport Canada has taken further measures, including

  • Removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service;
  • Introducing new safety standards for DOT-111 tank cars, and requiring those that do not meet the new standards to be phased out by May 1, 2017;
  • Requiring railway companies to slow trains transporting dangerous goods and introduce other key operating procedures;
  • Requiring emergency response plans for even a single tank car carrying crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and ethanol; and,
  • Creating a task force that meets regularly and brings municipalities, first responders, railways, and shippers together to strengthen emergency response capacity across the country.

The department has moved to enhance inspections, documentation, and follow-up for rail safety and transport of dangerous goods. This includes more frequent inspections at sites where petroleum products are transferred from one mode of transport to another, for example from truck to rail.

Transport Canada has also proposed or introduced fines, mandatory certificates, and tough new rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods regulations and reporting requirements on railways and shippers.

The department has updated regulations to assist in identifying dangerous goods in transport. The new regulations will bring cross border consistency to the way dangerous goods are identified, reducing the need for interpretation and providing emergency personnel with a clearer understanding of the risks posed by goods being transported, so they can take appropriate response measures.

The department remains committed to working with the rail industry, all levels of government, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, international partners and others to continually improve the safety of Canada’s railway system.

Tank Cars and oil transport

2. What is Transport Canada doing to improve the tank cars used for dangerous goods service in Canada?

This spring, the least crash-resistant tank cars—those lacking continuous bottom reinforcement—were taken out of dangerous goods service. Transport Canada also announced new safety standards for DOT-111 tank cars, and directed that tank cars that do not meet new tank car standards be phased out by May 1, 2017.

In July, Transport Canada launched consultations on the new class of tank car for flammable liquids (TC-140). These consultations are part of the regulatory development process, and mark the next step in Transport Canada’s ongoing actions to strengthen the transportation of dangerous goods by rail.

Transport Canada continues to work with U.S. regulators for a harmonized North American fleet of DOT-111 tank cars and a new class of tank car for flammable liquids. These discussions are part of the department’s usual regulatory development process.

3. How does Transport Canada ensure that crude oil is safely transported by rail in Canada?

The transportation of dangerous goods, including shipments of oil by rail, is strictly regulated under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, which applies during the import, handling, offering for transport and transport of dangerous goods.

In July, Transport Canada updated the DOT-111 tank car standard in Canada Gazette, Part II and launched consultations on the new class of tank car for flammable liquids (TC-140). These consultations are part of the regulatory development process, and mark the next step in Transport Canada’s ongoing actions to strengthen the transportation of dangerous goods by rail.

The department has moved to enhance inspections, documentation pertaining to proper classification of crude oil, and follow-up for rail safety and transport of dangerous goods. This includes more frequent inspections at sites where petroleum products are transferred from one mode of transport to another, for example from truck to rail.

The department has also taken a number of measures to ensure the safety of dangerous goods by rail. For example, this summer, the department has updated regulations to assist in identifying dangerous goods in transport. The new regulations will bring cross border consistency to the way dangerous goods are identified, reducing the need for interpretation and providing emergency personnel with a clearer understanding of the risks posed by goods being transported, so they can take appropriate response measures.

Shippers are responsible for classifying dangerous goods, completing documentation, selecting the proper means of containment and displaying dangerous goods safety marks on the container. Following amendments published on July 2, 2014, shippers are also required to keep records for up to five years on the classification of dangerous goods and the sampling method used for crude oil. These classification changes make it easier for inspectors to verify compliance with regulatory requirements.

4. How does Transport Canada ensure the safety of communities along railway lines in Canada?

Canada has a strong regulatory regime for trains travelling in both rural and urban areas. For trains transporting dangerous goods, Transport Canada introduced stricter requirements to safeguard the communities along our railway lines.

Transport Canada works to ensure measures are in place to quickly respond in the event of an accident involving dangerous goods. Part of this works includes ensuring municipalities and first responders have the tools and information they need in a timely manner.

Through Protective Direction 32, railway operators are providing municipalities and first responders with information on the dangerous goods being transported through their communities. This information enables municipalities to conduct proper risk assessments, emergency response planning and first responder training. As of July 31, 2014, 730 municipalities across Canada have requested and received this information.

In addition, under existing regulation, railway operators are required to provide CANUTEC (Transport Canada 24 hour emergency centre for dangerous goods) with a copy of the train consist immediately following an incident involving dangerous goods. The consist indicates the location and type of dangerous goods being transported by the train involved in the incident. The consist is made available to First Responders by CANUTEC.

Through Protective Direction 33, shippers are required to develop, by September 20, 2014, Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) for the following flammable liquids: crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and ethanol. An ERAP is required when a single tank car contains one of these designated flammable liquids. The ERAP assists municipalities and local emergency responders by providing them with around the clock technical experts and specially trained and equipped emergency response personnel at the scene of an incident.

Transport Canada has also established an Emergency Response Task Force to further explore the use of incident command systems and the expansion of ERAP requirements for other Class 3 flammable liquids. The task force is made up of experts from a number of organizations including the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Aboriginal Firefighters’ Association of Canada, railway companies, shippers, municipalities, and industry bodies. The task force will provide Transport Canada by summer 2015 with comprehensive recommendations aimed at strengthening emergency response capacity across the country.

Safety and oversight

5. What is Transport Canada’s oversight role? How does it ensure railway companies follow the rules?

Transport Canada takes the safety of the Canadian railway system seriously and is committed to ensuring that appropriate levels of safety are maintained. Should an issue of non-compliance be identified, there are a range of enforcement tools available under multiple Acts, up to and including prosecution.

Transport Canada’s oversight role includes monitoring railway companies for compliance with rules, regulations and engineering standards; and the overall safety of railway operations through audits and inspections.

The Railway Safety Act makes railway companies responsible for the safety of their rail line infrastructure, railway equipment and their operations. This means they are responsible for

  • knowing and following regulations, rules, standards and professional norms;
  • supervising their employees to ensure they follow the rules;
  • carrying out their own inspection, testing and maintenance programs according to regulatory requirements; and
  • monitoring operating and environmental conditions for changes that might affect safety.

Transport Canada examines specific evidence-based risk indicators to determine the level of monitoring and inspections required. Common risk indicators include accident investigations, safety records, and results of previous inspections and safety audits. Both audits and inspections are monitoring activities under the oversight program. They are planned annually, reviewed regularly, and revised as required using evidence-based risk indicators.

The transportation of dangerous goods, including shipments of oil by rail, is strictly regulated under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, which applies during the import, handling, offering for transport and transport of dangerous goods.

Rail operators are regularly inspected as part of the transportation of dangerous goods (TDG) risk-based inspection program. TDG inspections are conducted for manufacturers, producers, consignors, shippers, and facilities while dangerous goods are in transport, including rail yards.

Inspectors verify that dangerous goods are properly classified and transported in the proper means of containment manufactured to a Transport Canada approved standard. Other verified requirements include proper documentation, safety marks, reporting and training.

Under TDG’s graduated approach to enforcement, repeat offenders are subject to increasingly severe consequences.

The department is always working to strengthen railway safety oversight and proposed two regulations this year:

6. Why a safety management system (SMS)?

In the past, railway companies managed safety by obeying prescriptive rules and regulations that addressed known safety concerns. Research has demonstrated that it takes more than compliance to rules to ensure safety. What railway companies need is an organization-wide approach to identify and address risks before an accident happens.

This led to the introduction of safety management systems (SMS). A SMS gives railway companies a focused approach to building safety throughout their organizations and into every aspect of day-to-day operations. The basic components include safety goals, performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, rules and procedures, and monitoring and evaluation processes.

A SMS is a system that helps companies better comply with federal legislation and make safety an organization-wide priority. It does not replace any regulations, rules or standards.  An effective SMS places safety at the cornerstone of all railway operations.

Transport Canada monitors compliance through formal SMS audits and detailed inspections of infrastructure, equipment and operations, and does not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action where non-compliance is found.

Transport Canada continues to work with railway companies to help them better adopt and apply safety management systems.

Work is underway to expand mandatory requirements under the Railway Safety Management System Regulations to help railways better identify and manage safety risks.

The proposed changes include processes to:

  • Encourage employees to report accidents to senior management;
  • Analyze data and trends to identify safety concerns;
  • Manage organizational knowledge so employees can perform their duties more safely;
  • Improve work scheduling to prevent employee fatigue; and
  • Create annual safety targets and develop tools to achieve them.

7. What is the difference between an inspection and an audit?

Audits are systematic assessments of a railway company’s safety policies, procedures and processes to determine whether its Safety Management System meets all requirements of the Railway Safety Management System Regulations.

Inspections are planned examinations of operations, equipment, engineering, and infrastructure and can include responsive safety inspections and inspections for emerging issues. An inspection looks at a single component of the railway—such as a locomotive, rail bridge, or crossing—to determine whether it complies with the regulations, rules and engineering standards that apply.

Transport Canada plans both audits and inspections on an annual basis, regularly reviews and revises these planned audits and inspections as required, using evidence-based risk indicators.

8. What is Transport Canada doing to improve the liability and compensation regime for rail? Will TC require railways to carry more insurance?

The Government of Canada made a clear commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne that it will require shippers and railways to carry additional insurance so they are held accountable.

The railway disaster in Lac-Mégantic, and the insurance coverage carried by Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MM&A) Railway at the time of the accident, highlighted the importance of strengthening the current regime.

This is why on August 1, 2014 Transport Canada launched a second stage of consultations to strengthen the liability and compensation regime. Once finalized, the new regime will ensure that sufficient funds are available to compensate potential victims and pay for clean-up costs in the event of a catastrophic incident.

Transport Canada is collaborating with the Canadian Transportation Agency on their review of the level of third-party liability insurance required for a federally-regulated railway to be issued a Certificate of Fitness. This will ensure a coherent approach to policy development in this area.

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