Editorial: Tanker car danger is a serious problem
Railroad officials told the National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday that legacy rail tankers, known as DOT-111 cars, have a one-infour risk of leaking when they derail.
This failure factor is increased when one considers the rapid increase of crude oil shipments in recent years, especially from North Dakota. U.S. shipments have increased from 6,000 carloads in 2005 to nearly 400,000 carloads in 2013, an increase of more than 6666 percent.
The accident rate is significant. There have been 46,400 rail cars damaged in 29,000 accidents in the rail industry since 1970.
Currently, there are about 29,000 legacy tanker cars on U.S. railways, and an estimated 23,000 such cars carrying ethanol.
The NTSB has been calling for replacement or retrofitting of legacy tanker cars since 1991. Little has been done so far.
Canada decided Wednesday to take action. Our neighbor to the north will phase out all legacy rail tanker car over the next three years.
A runaway rail oil train last summer broke loose, ran downhill and derailed in a Quebec town killing 47 people and leveled nearly 30 buildings. Since that tragic accident, derailment accidents and related explosions have occurred in Alabama, North Dakota and New Brunswick.
The Canadian decision combined with a Canadian surcharge on legacy rail cars used in the country will force more of these older rail cars to the U.S., which in turn will increase the danger here.
The time for the NTSB, the oil and rail industries to identify a workable solution toward resolving the legacy rail tanker issue has long passed.
No one in west central Minnesota wants to hinder the energy or the rail industry, but no one wants to experience any railroad derailment and related explosions either.