The rail industry asked the Department of Transportation three years ago to write new regulations for railroad tank cars that were carrying the country’s nascent oil boom. In the two years that followed, state and local officials and the National Transportation Safety Board also urged the department to take action.
But the DOT did not begin the rulemaking process until last September, two months after 47 people were killed in a violent inferno when a trainload of North Dakota crude oil left the tracks in Quebec and exploded.
The department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is working on the new regulations, and its sister agency, the Federal Railroad Administration, last week announced a series of voluntary measures to improve the safety of crude oil shipments. However, it might be another year before the tank car rules take effect.