ACC FRA Testimony

05/31/06 in Industry News


Public Meeting on “Hazardous Materials: Improving the Safety of Railroad
Tank Car Transportation of Hazardous Materials”

of the

MAY 31, 2006

Hello. My name is Tom Schick and I serve as Senior Director for Distribution at the American Chemistry Council (“ACC”).

For those who might not be familiar with ACC, it is the trade association representing the companies that make the chemicals that make modern life possible. Products supplied by the chemical sector are essential in manufacturing, agriculture, energy, transportation, technology, communications, health, education, defense, and virtually every aspect of our lives. Basic industrial chemicals are the raw materials for thousands of other products including plastics, water treatment chemicals, detergents, pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals. These applications include medicines and medical technologies that save our lives, computers that expand our horizons, foods we eat, water we drink, cars we drive, homes in which we live, and clothes we wear.

Chemicals are essential for the life of the nation, including some materials that are hazardous. The goal of the hazardous material transportation system is to ensure that those products are delivered safely and reliably, not to prevent their movement. Rail transportation is critical to ACC’s membership and to all of the industries and people who depend on us. ACC is therefore pleased that the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) is conducting this important public meeting on improving the safe transportation of hazardous materials in railroad tank car service. In addition to ACC itself, a number of member-company representatives will also be participating in this public meeting today and tomorrow. We sincerely appreciate this opportunity to exchange ideas – not only with officials who represent DOT’s Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) and the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) – but also with other key stakeholders.

ACC strongly supports a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder review of the complex and interrelated aspects of hazardous materials tank car safety, including design and operational issues. The appropriate approach to hazardous materials tank car safety should include:

  • A holistic system view including all components of the risk equation including tank car design, railroad operational procedures, and emergency response.
  • Establishment of realistic and specific design standards by which to quantify the performance of current or proposed tank car designs based on verifiable physical characteristics. This approach should incorporate findings from FRA research currently being conducted by the Volpe Center.
  • Examination of any proposed changes by applying appropriate risk/benefit analysis.
  • Consideration of performance of the components of the current rail system in determining the timetable for implementing changes.

Hazardous materials transportation safety – the avoidance of accidents and accidental releases of hazardous materials – is a primary focus for ACC, our member companies, the broader chemistry sector, and our transportation partners. Together, we have invested billions of dollars in training, systems, technology and tank car safety and we will continue to do so in the future. Hazmat transportation safety is good business. ACC and its members are committed to continuous safety improvement. Through ACC’s Responsible Care® initiative, our 129 member-companies have committed to implement a set of goals and guidelines that go above and beyond federal regulation on health, safety, security and the environment. Our commitment to transportation safety also includes, but is certainly not limited to, the following:

  • For almost 35 years, ACC has operated CHEMTREC®, which is the “Chemical Transportation Emergency Center.” CHEMTREC is a 24-hour toll-free telephone line that assists first responders, carrier personnel, and the general public with hazardous materials incidents.
  • TRANSCAER® (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) is a multi-industry program with strong participation and support from the railroads. The purpose of TRANSCAER is to supply information about emergency response to locations along hazardous materials transportation routes.
  • As DOT knows, ACC has a seat on the Tank Car Committee (“TCC”) of the Association of American Railroads (“AAR”). TCC has a mandate from FRA to evaluate tank car design and specifications from the perspective of furthering safety. For many years ACC has found TCC to be an effective forum in which this important risk-management factor has been addressed in a collaborative and purposeful manner.
  • ACC also participated with AAR and the Railway Supply Institute on the Inter-Industry Rail Safety Task Force. That initiative contributed to enhanced safety of hazardous materials tank car transportation.

Experience, engineering science and common sense teach us that in the rail mode, hazardous materials safety is the result of many interrelated factors including:

  • Overall safety of rail operations, including operations in “dark territory.”
  • Placement of tank cars within trains, and their coupling to other cars.
  • Training, supervision and staffing of train crews to ensure operational safety.
  • Ongoing inspections of equipment.
  • Proper use of appropriate cars for the movement of specific hazardous materials.
  • Design and construction of tank cars.

Today, according to FRA data, rail safety performance has plateaued. FRA cites several factors, which is why we strongly believe that the entire review of hazardous materials rail safety must be conducted in a forum where a holistic approach is possible. Further, the use of sound science is central to the chemical industry’s method of operation, including the conduct of safety assessments. We therefore applaud DOT’s initiative in calling this public meeting and look forward to hearing from others and taking part in further steps in this information-gathering process. That should ensure that the resources devoted to this effort will result in a measurable improvement in safety.

Safety is an ongoing process to which ACC is fully committed. We look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation and we call on other stakeholders to continuously enhance the safety of hazardous material transportation.

Thank you for allowing the American Chemistry Council to speak at this public meeting. I would be glad to respond to answer any questions.