Shipping Hazardous Materials by Train: What You Need to Know

Transporting hazardous materials is a complex process that requires special considerations. Selecting the right packaging for hazardous material is a fundamental step in the HMR security system. The packaging must be able to withstand all the conditions normally encountered during transport, such as changes in humidity and pressure, shocks and vibrations. HMR authorizes many types of packaging for hazardous materials, which vary in size, from 1-milliliter glass sample tubes to 30,000 gallon railroad tankers.

Different modes of transport (road, plane, rail and ship) and different volumes of hazardous materials present different challenges and require a variety of packaging designs to take into account the different conditions found in transportation. Tank wagons used for rail transport must be designed to withstand exposure to weather conditions, to the forces and changes of the train, to vibrations, to dynamic forces and to exposure to the load they carry. For hazardous materials to be shipped by air, specific procedures must be followed. First, the shipper must meet their criteria, such as declaring the shipment as dangerous goods, correctly completing the Dangerous Goods Declaration, and properly preparing the shipment for transport.

Then, the burden acceptance procedures are carefully enacted. Using the dangerous goods checklist will ensure that what the shipper has sent complies with dangerous goods regulations. Hazardous materials have been transported in large quantities since the rapid industrialization of the late 19th century. The military had long used ships, barges and railroad cars to transport explosives, armaments and other dangerous cargo.

However, the transportation of hazardous materials for commercial purposes did not grow markedly until after the Civil War. The demand for oil after its discovery in western Pennsylvania in the late 1860s led to an increase in the quantities of crude oil that were transported over long distances, first on horseback and river barges and, soon after, in oil pipelines, tankers and tankers (TRB 1993; Heller 1970; Newton 200). At the start of World War I, significant quantities of hazardous materials were being transported along the country's roads, waterways, and railroads. Tanker trucks carried gasoline and fuel for domestic heating, steel tank wagons were equipped to transport dozens of petroleum products and chemicals, and oil tankers and steam-powered barges carried those loads on inland and coastal waterways.

Trains that consist of wagons that carry hazardous materials and, in some cases, are composed entirely of them, run on the same railway lines as passenger trains throughout the country. NYDOT, NYDEC, NJDEP, and NYDHSES suggested that the PHMSA provide specific training, resources, and support to emergency response personnel, including cooperation with state fire training agencies to ensure that training is consistent, effective and easily available as a requirement in the final rule, similar to the special permit. Most local first responders are trained to recognize banners and take initial protective measures but only a fraction are trained with the highest level of competence to deal with the release of hazardous or threatened materials. For the purposes of hazardous materials regulations, a shipping document is any shipping document whose purpose is to report a hazard and that meets the requirements contained in this subpart.

A number of commentators are concerned that first responders lack the training and experience to respond to an incident involving an LNG tanker car, especially in unit train configurations. As a method to meet these requirements, train crews often carry the DOT Emergency Response Guide (ERG), a joint publication of the PHMSA, Transport Canada, the Mexican Secretariat of Communication and Transportation, and government and industry stakeholders. This guide supplements emergency response information provided by the person sending the hazardous material. The train crew must also carry a document that identifies the position on the train of each car containing hazardous material.

As explained above, trains currently transport cryogenic flammable materials (such as ethylene) in three DOT-113 tank cars on mixed-product freight trains. There is extensive research on the separation distance of hazardous materials from train crews and locomotives as well as other hazardous materials on a train. The training will be in accordance with NFPA-472 which establishes minimum competencies for responding to emergencies involving hazardous materials including known hazards in emergencies related to release of LNG. Safety recommendations refer to risks posed by train crews as well as distance and configuration of hazardous materials wagons locomotives and equipment occupied to ensure protection of train crews both during normal operations and under accident conditions.

Finally document carried by train crew must clearly show emergency response telephone number of each hazardous material transported on train. PHMSA may consider changes separation distance requirements § 174.85 HMR railway cars tank cars signs freight train mixed-product unit train configurations pending outcome study. Evaluate risks posed train crews by hazardous materials transported by rail determine appropriate separation distance between hazardous materials wagons locomotives occupied equipment which ensures protection train crews both during normal operations during accident conditions work Federal Railroad Administration review 49 Code Federal Regulations 174.85 reflect those findings. IATA Lithium Battery Shipping Regulation (LBSR) can better help regulations shipping lithium batteries items containing lithium batteries.

Heidi Longbotham
Heidi Longbotham

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