Loading platform for crude oil rail car

Are You Ready for the New Railcar?

New Rules and Regulations Take the Tank-Car Industry by Surprise

Throughout the past several years, there’s been a surge in crude oil production and its transport by rail. As a result of these growing demands within the crude-by-rail sector, the industry ramped up production of their DOT-111 tank cars to meet the need. With the rail volume increase, however, came concerns about derailments.

As part of the corrective action taken to reduce this chance, regulatory agencies addressed the safety of railcars. The result was a new tank car with new standards: the DOT-117, introduced by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration. (Read the new standard here.)

What does this mean for loading stations and terminals? It means they’ll need to ensure their facility and equipment can support this new type of car. The final rule requires that DOT-111 tank cars for “Packing Group I” (which covers most crude oil shipped by rail) be replaced within three years and all non-jacketed CPC-1232s within approximately five years.

This will require time-consuming modifications both to the car designs, their corresponding loading stations, and loading equipment and accessories. Here, we discuss the new DOT-117 requirements, as well as your options for updating and retrofitting railcars and loading stations to meet the new standards.

A Breakdown of the Regulations

The DOT-117 regulation speaks specifically to “high-hazard flammable trains,” or HHFTs. Any continuous block of 20 or more tank cars holding a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars holding a flammable liquid dispersed through the train qualifies as an HHFT.

The most notable operational requirements included in the DOT-117 rule include:

  • Enhanced braking systems
  • Reduced operating speed
  • More accurate classification of unrefined petroleum-based products
  • Rail routing risk assessment
  • Rail routing information access

In addition to these operational mandates, several safety modifications must be applied to the existing DOT-111 or CPC-1232 tank car units, including:

  • A full-height, half-inch-thick head shield
  • 9/16-inch minimum tank shell thickness, TC-128 Grade B, normalized steel
  • Thermal protection
  • Minimum 11-gauge jacket
  • Top fittings protection
  • Enhanced bottom outlet handle design to prevent unintended actuation during an accident
  • Improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves

You can view the entire rule here, and a summary of the rule here.

How Are You Prepping Your Business?

As always, the industry is working to embrace the latest and safest technology with the introduction of the new railcar standards. But the new DOT-117 cars still pose significant challenges for business owners, who will be forced to accommodate both tank car sizes as they transition from old to new. To maintain safe and efficient loading operations, terminals may require modifications or replacements to existing loading racks and safety cages. Many facilities built their loading racks specifically for the DOT-111 cars and may now be unsure whether they’ll still work with the new cars.

If you’re unsure of which changes you need to make or how to retrofit your facility to accommodate, SafeRack experts can help with you railcar fall protection and railcar loading. We can help you with both interim and long-term solutions.

By using advanced 3D configurator technology, SafeRack can design new or updated loading platforms, gangways and cages to your unique specifications on our very first visit. Our team of industry experts will work with you to provide a complete solution that keeps your employees — and business — safe.