Transportation of Dangerous Goods

Economic growth. New pressures on Canada's transportation system. Amended Acts and regulations. 2007–2011 was a period of change for the transportation of dangerous goods.

10.1 Overview of Transportation of Dangerous Goods

Dangerous goods means a product, substance or organism that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical or chemical characteristics may pose a real hazard to human health or the environment—such as gasoline, heating oil, paints, medication, household cleaning products and other materials used in homes and industrial activities.

Transport Canada estimates that, in terms of tonnage, 70% of dangerous goods are transported by road, 24% by rail and 6% by marine. A very small quantity of dangerous goods, accounting for less than 1%, is transported by air. The most common dangerous goods commodities transported in Canada are crude petroleum oil, gasoline and fuel oils, representing 77% of all dangerous goods transported by road. Alberta, because of its oil industry, is the province with the highest volume of dangerous goods movement on the road.

In 2009, Industry Canada indicated that about $40 billion of chemical products are shipped in Canada annually, representing more than 8% of all manufacturing shipments in the country. Highly trained personnel are required to manage these dangerous goods and their associated risks.

Transport Canada is the major source of regulatory development, information and guidance on the transportation of dangerous goods (TDG) in Canada, and works closely with other federal, provincial and territorial agencies to foster effective and responsive governance and promote safety and efficiency.

Global economic growth and new sources of demands place pressure on Canada's transportation system. For example, the dramatic growth of the Asia–Pacific market adds pressure to transportation networks. Growth such as this must occur with proper attention paid to both the transportation of dangerous goods and to Canada's emergency response capabilities. With traffic volume increasing across all modes of transportation, delays may occur, which means these dangerous goods, much like other types of goods may spend more time in the transportation system. This is taking place while Canada's transportation system is simultaneously becoming more integrated, leading to increased expectations for the seamless movement of dangerous goods between modes (e.g. from ship to train to motor carrier) and across borders.

Handling and transporting dangerous goods also raises concerns related to security and the environment. Issues such as real and perceived security threats have compelled Transport Canada to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 in 2009 to permit emergency response measures addressing dangerous goods that have been lost, stolen or unlawfully interfered with and that may be used in security-related incidents. The pressure to mitigate environmental impacts related to the release of dangerous goods has significant implications for the design and structure of containment methods and in procedures related to emergency response (see tables S22 to S24).

10.2 2011 Year in Review

  • In 2011, 358 accidents were reported to Transport Canada, meeting the transportation of dangerous goods Regulations' Part 8 reporting requirements—an 18% increase from 2010, but 5% below the five-year (2006–2010) average.
  • Transport Canada, its stakeholders and emergency response personnel were involved in Exercise Kaboom in March. The purpose of the exercise was to draw upon existing capabilities for Class 7, Radioactive Materials under the Emergency Response Assistance Program and to run an exercise testing these capabilities in the context of a Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosive Response Program (CBRNE) incident requiring response to a radioactive dispersal device. Exercise Kaboom demonstrated industry participants' response capabilities harnessed in a full-scale, live-play, multi-agency CBRNE exercise. The exercise validated industry response capabilities by demonstrating the ability of response resources to effectively address gaps in incident response. All exercise participants and stakeholders worked well together forming linkages.
  • The transportation industry implemented operational changes in response to new requirements resulting from the amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.
  • Several regulatory amendments were completed, including clarified requirements for Emergency Response Assistance Plans (ERAPs) and established compensation for plan holders (authorized by the Minister of Transport) when they respond to actual or anticipated releases of dangerous goods.

10.3 2007–11 Recap

In response to industry changes and new security issues, Parliament amended the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in 2009 to provide requirements and authorities regarding: security regulations; emergency response plans; and control of the design, manufacturing, repair and testing of containers used in the transport of dangerous goods. These authorities allow Transport Canada to develop new policies and regulations—using the established consultation process—to enhance safety and security for Canadians while transporting dangerous goods.

While remaining focused on preventing incidents when dangerous goods are imported, handled, offered for transport and transported, the revised Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act expands the Government of Canada's response capability in the event of a security incident involving dangerous goods. This includes the CBRNE, which allows for a Canada-wide response to terrorism incidents involving such materials.

The ongoing harmonization of regulations and standards between Canada and the U.S. that incorporate United Nations recommendations has facilitated trans-border shipments, while increased awareness efforts have given industry direct access to Transport Canada inspectors through a Web feedback portal.

As the transportation of dangerous goods is a matter of concern for all Canadians, Transport Canada regularly consults with industry and with provincial and territorial governments about relevant policy changes through the Transportation of Dangerous Goods General Policy Advisory Council and biannual Task Force meetings.

10.4 TDG Issues

Regulatory framework

Transport Canada is aligning the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDG Regulations) with the amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, and is creating a compliance and response capabilities training program that will also fall in line with the amended requirements.

Specific focus will be placed on harmonizing the TDG Regulations with recent international regulations—incorporating updated references to technical standards— for the selection, use and manufacturing of means of containment, as proper classification of dangerous goods and selection of adequate containment means are key to the safe transportation of dangerous goods. Transport Canada is also enhancing its ability to gather data to support risk-based analysis and decision making, and has initiated work to amend data-reporting requirements.

Partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Transport Canada is working to establish a cooperative arrangement that will increase regulatory harmonization and reciprocity to reduce costs for approvals, product testing, export certification and authorities' approvals requirements.

Emergency response/CANUTEC

The Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC) is a national advisory service that helps emergency response personnel handle dangerous goods emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. CANUTEC is staffed with bilingual scientists trained in emergency response and specialized in chemistry or a related field. Emergency response advisors are experienced in interpreting technical information from various scientific sources to provide pertinent and timely emergency response advice to the First Responder community.

For the shipment of specific dangerous goods, Emergency Response Assistance Plans (ERAP) must be approved by Transport Canada. Emergency situations involving these materials may require RMS (RMSs) at the scene; in these cases, joint CANUTEC/RMS experts provide Transport Canada's dangerous goods technical assistance expert advice to first responders. These individuals are experts in dealing with an emergency and in the characteristics of the dangerous goods involved and their possible impact on people and property. Transport Canada dangerous goods inspectors may also respond either in person or by teleconference, and can veto the proposed response and suggest alternatives if they believe public safety is at risk.

In addition to providing expert advice, CANUTEC also offers a free 24-hour emergency telephone service for Canadian consignors wishing to use this telephone number on their dangerous goods shipping documents. Approximately 7,000 consignors are registered for this service. In 2011, CANUTEC dealt with 1,032 emergency situations and handled more than 26,000 telephone calls in 2011.

CANUTEC is responsible for the production of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG), a joint effort between Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Argentina that is distributed to the Canadian First Responder community (and is also available in electronic format via the Transport Canada website, free of charge). A new guidebook is published every four years to reflect any changes in emergency response procedures and to update material names and identification numbers (called United Nations numbers). A newly revised edition of the guide will be released at the beginning of 2012.

Risk-based approach

Handling and transporting dangerous goods presents a high risk to those directly involved as well as to the public at large. Risk is defined as the probability of damage, injury, liability, loss or other negative occurrence; examples of such negative occurrences include economic losses, infrastructure damage and death.

More than 40,000 Canadian sites are subject to the TDG Regulations. As a result, Transport Canada must allocate inspection resources where they will have the greatest impact. The risk-based approach currently being implemented involves inspecting sites according to the risk they pose to public safety. Using this approach, sites subject to the TDG Regulations are ranked according to factors such as the last time they were visited, their compliance history, the nature and quantities of dangerous goods handled and other characteristics. A score is then assigned to every site based on the risk it represents, and those with the highest scores are given priority by inspectors.

Ranking sites according to a measured risk helps ensure that dangerous goods are handled and transported safely in any mode of transport in Canada.

Safety performance

To better evaluate risk, accidents occurring during the transportation or handling of dangerous goods must be tracked. The TDG Regulations outline reporting requirements for releases of dangerous goods above pre-determined quantities and use data from these reports to calculate risk.

More than 70% of the 358 dangerous goods accidents reported to Transport Canada in 2011 occurred during handling at transportation facilities and the remaining 30% during transit (please see Addendum Tables S22 to S24). Ninety-six road-mode accidents were reported, representing more than 92% of in-transit dangerous goods accidents. The remainder occurred in the rail (6%) and air modes (2%). The TDG Regulations do not cover in-transit marine accidents involving bulk shipments of dangerous goods.

Seven injuries and no deaths were attributed to dangerous goods in 2011. From 2006 to 2010, there were an average of 11 injuries per year. The majority of dangerous goods accidents involved Class 3, Flammable Liquids (61%); Class 8, Corrosives (19%); or Class 2, Gases (12%). Most of the dangerous goods accidents in 2011 occurred in Alberta (63%), Ontario (12%) or Saskatchewan (8%).

The top two categories of underlying factors contributing to accidents were human error (56%) and equipment (32%), which includes gauges, valves, vents, closures, hoses and more.

Auditor General Report

On December 13th, 2011, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled its December report. Chapter 1 examined Transport Canada's oversight of the transportation of dangerous goods. The Audit focused on the oversight function of the program and recommended that Transport Canada establishes and implements an action plan to ensure that:

  • Compliance monitoring and follow-up procedures are documented;
  • Roles and responsibilities for dangerous goods inspections within Transport Canada are clarified;
  • A performance measurement system that allows the department to report on the rate of regulatory compliance is implemented;
  • The policy and procedure requirements for the review and approval of the emergency response assistance plans are clarified;
  • Necessary guidance to review emergency response assistance plans is developed, and;
  • A plan and timeline to complete an emergency response assistance plan is developed and implemented.

Transport Canada has put in place a management action plan that addresses all the findings in the report.

Transportation Safety Board and dangerous goods

Transport Canada works with the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) to investigate accidents. Collaboration occurs during on-site investigations (for Transport Canada's own assessment of the situation with respect to TSB's authority), during reviews of TSB reports, and in relation to Transport Canada's response to TSB recommendations for preventing similar accidents.

Active TSB recommendations pertaining to transportation of dangerous goods accidents in 2011 include a recommendation related to tanker rail cars (tank car) standards for 286,000-pound cars that have been applied to new non-pressurized transportation of dangerous goods tank cars, and another recommendation tied to protocol for reporting and analyzing tank car stub sill failures so that unsafe cars are repaired or removed from service. Tank car stub sills are the two short steel beams (one attached to the bottom of each end of a tank) that hold the couplers and draft gears. They are a structural part of a car under-frame and transmit coupler forces to the car body.

TDG Research

Transport Canada's transportation of dangerous goods Research and Development (R&D) program plans, manages and delivers engineering and scientific R&D projects, with the objective of informing and contributing to public safety in the transportation of dangerous goods.

Transport Canada was involved in the following research projects in 2011:

  • Investigation of Multiple Tank Car Rollover Derailments Related to Double Shelf Couplers and its Solutions—Transport Canada is working with the National Research Council of Canada's Centre for Surface Transportation Technology to better understand tank car domino rollover derailments and assess solutions that could reduce these types of derailments. Tank car domino rollover derailments occur when the initial derailing tank cars are able to progressively roll over a number of subsequent tank cars. For further information, refer to the article in the Transport Dangerous Goods Newsletter, Fall 2011 edition1.
  • Assessing the Toxicity of the Transport of Petroleum Sour Crude Oil—This ongoing project will provide Transport Canada with important data and information regarding proper classification, safety marking and how petroleum crude oil should be contained during transport. The objective of the project is to correlate the hydrogen sulphide concentration in petroleum sour crude oil to the toxic vapours it generates during transportation in highway tanks.

 

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  1. See http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/tdg/newsletter-fall-2011-1120.htm
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