U.S. Transportation Department issues rule change for hazmat trains

On Tuesday, the U.S. Transportation Department issued a new federal rule that is designed to improve rail security and keep hazardous materials trains out of our nation's most urban areas.

The ruling requires railroads to conduct a security assessment and risk analysis of the primary route its hazardous materials trains travel upon, and then to create options for practical alternative routes that could keep those cars from being in the most population dense areas. The ruling applies to those trains hauling Poison Inhalation Hazard (PIH) goods such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia. The requirements would need to be met by September 2009.

Just a month ago, the department also issued a requirement that new hazmat tanker cars be able to increase by 500 percent the amount of energy and force those tankers could withstand before they experience a catastrophic failure.

The rules are designed not only for terrorism risks that could be targeted at rail companies transporting hazardous materials, but also for general mishaps and accidents.

According to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, the Tuesday ruling also includes rail security provisions designed to prevent tampering with hazmat rail cars during transportation.

The DOT has put up detailed notes on the ruling on its website, where interested parties can download a PDF of these rail security changes.