Canada’s transportation minister has announced the phasing out or retro-fitting of substandard tanker cars used to transport flammable liquids, in response to a deadly derailment in Quebec last year.
Minister Lisa Raitt said the “least crash-resistant” DOT 111 tanker cars that have no continuous reinforcement of their bottom shell will be taken out of service within 30 days.
There are about 5000 of them in North America.
Another 65,000 DOT 111 tanker cars that do not meet tougher standards for new models “must be phased out or retrofitted within three years if they are to be used for transportation of crude oil or ethanol,” Raitt told a press conference.
Many of the upgrades are already underway.
Ongoing discussions with US officials may also result in even further tightening of the standards in the future, Raitt added.
Large swaths of the picturesque town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, were reduced to rubble after a runaway freight train carrying fuel crashed and derailed in July last year.
The structural integrity of the DOT 111 tank cars involved in the accident that killed 47 people came under scrutiny following the crash, after it emerged the US Department of Transportation had identified safety flaws in the early 1990s.
In January, Canadian and US transportation safety agencies called for stricter rules for moving oil by rail.
Transportation of crude oil by rail has increased dramatically in North America in recent years, driven by the boom in production of oil from unconventional methods such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and due to a lack of pipeline capacity.
According to rail industry figures cited by the transportation safety agencies, the number of carloads of crude oil shipped by rail in Canada increased from 500 in 2009 to 160,000 last year.
In the United States, the number rose from 10,800 to 400,000 during the same period.