GATINEAU, QC, Aug. 25 /CNW/ - The TSB warned today that tens of
thousands of faulty railway cars may be in operation, hauling dangerous
goods across Canada.
In its final report (R09W0016) into a 2009 accident near Dugald,
Manitoba, the TSB says a faulty stub sill went undetected, allowing a
tank car loaded with 51 500 pounds of flammable liquid propylene to
separate from the rest of the train before coming to a stop. A stub sill
is part of the frame which connects the tank cars.
Although the Dugald train came to a stop without derailing, the TSB says
the lack of formal protocols to record and report stub sill failures may
prevent other broken parts from being found before the next accident.
"Approximately 41 000 cars within the North American tank car fleet are
equipped with this model of stub sills, and approximately 35 000 of them
are in dangerous goods service," said Rob Johnston, Acting Rail/Pipeline
Director of Investigations. "And although these represent just 13 per
cent of the tank population, they account for 34 per cent of the cracked
stub sills and 100 per cent of the broken ones in Canada. These numbers
are alarming and must not be ignored."
The TSB further noted that in many cases the regulator, Transport Canada
(TC), was either unaware of, or had limited information regarding stub
sill failures so the problem went undetected.
"When tank cars and dangerous goods are involved, what we don't know can
sometimes hurt us," added Mr. Johnston. To combat the problem, the Board
recommends that TC take the lead in coordinating with the railway
industry and other North American regulators on the issue of reporting
stub sill failures.
Adding to the risk, the Board says today's trains are longer and heavier
than ever, making them more difficult to control. Alarmingly, the Board
found that stub sills manufactured according to older design criteria
may be more susceptible to failure in the current operating environment
of longer heavier trains.
Prior to the mid-1990s, an average train in main-track service was about
5000 feet long and weighed 6000 to 7000 tons. Today, some of them are
over 12 000 feet long and weigh more than 10 000 tons.
"That's a big difference," explained Johnston. "Trains and car design
criteria must evolve over time and keep pace with operational demands or
accidents may happen. This is a major safety concern."
Earlier this year the Board included the operation of these longer
heavier trains on its safety Watchlist. The list, which
highlighted nine transportation issues posing the greatest risk
to Canadians, also offered several solutions—including better
marshalling of longer heavier trains and detailed risk assessments
whenever operating practices change.
In the interim, Johnston said there is still more work to be done. "The
recommendation we've made today is the first step in this direction," he
said. "Raising the safety standard will take a concerted effort from
both TC and the railway industry."
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline,
railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the
advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the
Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
For additional information on the Watchlist, visit the following link: http://www.bst-tsb.gc.ca/eng/surveillance-watchlist/index.asp.
The news release, photo gallery and the final report R09W0016 are also
available on the TSB website at www.bst-tsb.gc.ca.
SOURCE Transportation Safety Board of Canada
For further information: For further information:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada