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Canada to phase out older crude oil tanker cars early due to explosion risk

26 July 2016

Canada will take older crude tanker cars out of service much earlier than originally planned, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on July 26. Accident investigators have said the older tanker units, called DOT-111 cars, tend to puncture easily during derailments, sometimes causing fires. The train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic and killed 47 people in 2013 consisted of DOT-111 units.

The aftermath of the Lac-Megantic disaster - Image: TSB
The aftermath of the Lac-Megantic disaster - Image: TSB

Some of the older tankers had been scheduled to go out of service on May 1, 2017, while a version with an extra layer of protection was set to be phased out on March 1, 2018. Both types of cars will now be taken out of service by November 1 this year, Garneau said.

This decision was made easier by the collapse in oil prices, which has significantly cut the number of tanker cars in use on the Canadian rail network. There are about 28,000 affected cars in crude oil service in the USA and Canada, with US DOT-111 units due to be phased out between 2018 and 2023.

Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada Chair Kathy Fox said she was encouraged that the Transport Minister had taken this action.

“The protective direction announced today is a positive step, and highlights Canadian leadership in terms of action taken to improve tank car safety. We look forward to continued strong action from both the regulator and industry to reduce the risks associated with the transportation of crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail.”

Nevertheless, the TSB has also raised concerns about the durability of tank cars that meet the newer CPC-1232 standard.

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