By The Canadian Press
Jan. 10, 2014, Ottawa - Transport Canada quietly approved new safety rules drafted by the railway industry on Boxing Day just as an emergency directive issued in the wake of last summer's Lac-Megantic disaster was set to expire.
By The Canadian Press
The federal department also reissued a new emergency directive on
Jan. 1, again without public notification, covering those rail companies
that are not part of the Railway Association of Canada.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt issued the emergency directive last
July to address some of the most glaring safety deficiencies exposed by
the derailment and explosion of an oil-laden train that claimed 47 lives
in Lac-Megantic, Que.
Since then, there have been at least five significant railway
accidents in North America involving the spill or combustion of oil,
including the derailment this week of a CN train in northwestern New
The emergency measures put in place last summer dictated that at
least two crew members must work trains that carry dangerous goods.
In addition, the federal directive said no locomotive attached to one
or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous materials could be left
unattended on a main track.
Transport Canada declined to comment Thursday on the newly approved
rules, endorsed Dec. 26 by Gerard McDonald, the department's assistant
deputy minister for safety and security.
However, the Railway Association provided a copy to The Canadian Press.
Like the emergency directive, the new rules continue to require that
at least two crew work a train transporting dangerous material such as
The rules drop the requirement that a train with hazardous cargo be
continuously attended, but insist if it is left unattended that new
instructions be followed to safely apply brakes and secure the cab to
prevent unauthorized entry.
Kevin McKinnon, director of regulatory affairs at the Railway
Association, said the new rules will prevent freight trains from rolling
away or being tampered with.
"The public should be very comfortable with what was put out by us," he said Thursday.
McKinnon, a qualified locomotive engineer, said it's not realistic to
have a crew member watch a train loaded with dangerous goods
"We ship dangerous commodities, yes we do. We ship them throughout
the country, and there's times where they are not going to be attended,"
"But, I mean, do you not leave your car out in the parking lot? Or do you sleep beside it every night?"
The new rules stipulate that before leaving a train at any location,
the employee doing so "must confirm with another employee the manner in
which the equipment has been secured."
In a letter to the Railway Association, McDonald said member
companies are required to file special instructions with the department
governing the testing of hand brakes.
The New Brunswick accident has renewed concerns about the hazards of moving oil by rail.
At a news conference, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the "enormous"
increase in rail transport of crude oil in recent years has not been
matched by an increase in rail inspections and safety audits.
"There is such thing as safe transport of petroleum products by
pipeline. There is such as safe transport by rail," Mulcair said.
"But you've got to put in the conditions, you've got to supervise on
behalf of the public. That's what's missing in Canada now. We let the
companies decide for themselves. We let them check themselves, regulate
themselves and supervise themselves."
There have been repeated warnings that DOT-111 tank cars routinely used to ship oil can easily rupture in a derailment.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox met Thursday with a
congressional delegation from North Dakota, who quoted the transport
czar telling them that new regulations for oil transport — including
tank car reforms — would be announced in "weeks, not months."
Mulcair warned Canada will have to be in lock step.
"We could wind up with the worst of all situations in Canada if we don't act on this," he said of the aging DOT-111 tank cars.
"If they're still approved up here and the Americans are replacing
them, they're all going to buy them on the cheap and we'll have
kilometres-long trains of this dangerous stuff moving in those old
In fact, the integrated North American rail service means all
shippers will be caught in the same supply-and-demand dilemma should new
tank cars be required.
That's because it will be a tall order to build enough new, stronger
tank cars, said Larry Beirlein, a Washington-based lawyer with the
Association of Hazmat Shippers, which provides regulatory legal advice
to industry on the full gamut of hazardous materials, from gas cylinders
to refineries to nail polish.
"You not only have very few builders of these kinds of cars, there
are even fewer installations that could modify them," he said in an
"With thousands of cars across North America, I don't think anything
significant could be done in less than 10 years because of the backlog."