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Friday, 05/01/2015 12:08:52 PM

Friday, May 01, 2015 12:08:52 PM

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U.S. Tank Car Rule To Require Electronic Train Brakes (5/01/15)

U.S. working closely with Canada on rail rule

U.S. transportation regulators Friday will issue tough new rules for railroads hauling crude oil and ethanol that will require trains be equipped with expensive new brake systems, according to a person familiar with the rules.

The regulations will also require that sturdier tank cars be built for hauling oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids and prescribes upgrades for an estimated 154,500 tank cars already carrying flammables.

The person familiar with the new tank car rules said that trains carrying large volumes of crude oil will be restricted to 30 mile an hour speeds if they don’t have new electronic brakes installed by 2021. Other flammable liquids, including ethanol in high volumes would be speed-restricted after 2023.

The rules, which will be unveiled Friday in a joint announcement by U.S. and Canadian regulators, were tougher than expected. The electronically controlled pneumatic brakes deploy faster than the air brakes now used on freight trains.

Freight railroads maintain that installing them on existing railcars and locomotives would be prohibitively expensive and take years of work fully implement. The cost of installing ECP brakes on an existing railcar is estimated at $8,000 to $10,000, according to rail industry consultants. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Canadian regulators will also require electronic brakes.

The decadelong phase-in requirement for upgrading tank cars already in service is double the time originally suggested by U.S. transportation regulators for completing retrofits. Transportation safety advocates and railcar builder Greenbrier Cos. have said that 10 years is too long and have urged that older cars be upgraded or removed from service sooner.

Several fiery crashes of crude-oil trains, including four this year alone, have ratcheted up pressure on government officials to reduce the risks posed by dozens of crude-oil trains a day traveling through metropolitan areas on their way to refineries.

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