Recently, the Obama administration put in place some measures to address problems with the safety of current rail cars which have been problematic for over two decades. They have a weak structure that allows for rips and punctures and that’s a problem, because the DOT-111 rail-car in question is designed to hold things like oil and ethanol. They’ve been involved in a number large scale accidents over the years and several groups want them changed. But not Senator Thune, he’s asked the Obama administration to delay the changes, stating that the two year deadline that the rail industry looks likely to be given, is too short.
“Without question, we must improve the safety of our nation’s rail system, but I am concerned about the unattainable deadlines the rule proposes,” Thune said. “The DOT issued this proposed rule without analyzing the potential tank car shop capacity needed to retrofit or replace over 100,000 DOT-111 tank cars.”
Chances are he’s balking at the potential cost that this will have on the industry too. It’s estimated that replacing all of the DOT-111 cars could cost upwards of $6 billion and lead to delays in the transport of oil and other hazardous materials while the changeover takes place. However, these cars have been known to be unsafe since the early 90s when the first reports of problems with them came in. Pushing it back even further seems like a dangerous proposition.
Still,Thune isn’t the only one complaining. The American Petroleum Institute came up with its own estimates and stated that it would cost upwards of $45.2 billion to replace the 143,000 some tanker cars in use at the moment. That’s certainly a much higher figure than that produced by the Transportation Department, but considering where it comes from, you might expect a small measure of bias mixed in with it.
It’s also been argued that logistically two years just isn’t enough time, as no cars can be retrofitted, it all needs to be new builds. Therefore, many believe the manufacturing sector isn’t equipped to replace that many tankers in such a short period of time. It would essentially require them to output at a rate in excess of 194 cars a day, every day, seven days a week, for the next two years.
Lobbying is coming from other quarters too, with organisations like the The Fertilizer Institute, a group that represents crop application, stating that all of this manufacturing could lead to a reduction in maintenance on other cars and therefore could lead to more accidents.
That said, the Transportation Department will be unlikely to be moved by such claims, since the DOT-111 tanker cars have been linked with the deaths of many civilians due to accidents sending them flying from the tracks, at which point they can quite easily burst, not only setting huge fires, which can kill and do damage to property, but spilled oil can poison local soil and mean whole communities need to be uprooted.
Over 141 accidents of varying scales were said to involved those tankers in 2014 alone.
Image source: Wikipedia