Thicker, safer DOT-111 railcars pitched by safety regulator

Transport Canada proposed new rules for rail cars Friday that would require new DOT-111 tank cars be built with thicker steel requirements, as well as adding top fitting and head shield protection.

Transport Canada proposes amendment to change the way oil-carrying cars are built

Derailed DOT-111 railcars from an accident in Illinois in 2009 are shown. Ottawa is proposing new rules designed to make the cars safer. (The Associated Press)

Transport Canada proposed new rules Friday for some types of rail cars in an effort to improve safety after a train derailment this week in New Brunswick.

The amendment — which would require new DOT-111 tank cars be built with thicker steel requirements, as well as adding top fitting and head shield protection — would take tank car requirements that the industry has largely already agreed to, and turn them into binding regulations.

"The Government of Canada is committed to working with everyone involved to look at every possible way to increase safety when dangerous goods are transported by rail," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in a release.

The proposed amendment will also enhance the classification regime for the transport of dangerous goods. Specifically, it requires that the person who classifies a dangerous good before transport keep a record of classification of those goods, as well as a record of the sampling method for crude oil, the ministry said in a release.

Safety concerns

DOT-111 rail cars were used in several recent high-profile train accidents, including the Lac-Mégantic disaster last year and the incident this week when 19 cars derailed in New Brunswick.

The cylindrical DOT-111 rail cars are a ubiquitous mainstay of the North American rail fleet, but have faced criticism in recent years for some of their design flaws. 

Those criticisms have stepped up with their increased use to transport oil and other combustibles across North America.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Raitt said she plans to meet with officials from Canada and the United States to figure out what to do with the existing stock of DOT-111 rail cars. 

"The problem is that there is a higher demand for cars," she said. "Now the good news is that as the demand increases and the new cars are being added to the line, they are going to be at a tougher new standard, there's no question. But you're right — what do you do with the other over 100,000 DOT-111 cars that are out there?"

In 2009, there were 529 carloads of Canadian crude oil shipped by rail across North America, the Railway Association of Canada says. By last year, that figure had jumped to 160,000 carloads.

The Association of American Railroads says there are roughly 228,000 DOT-111 rail cars currently in operation across the United States.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly cited a figure for the amount of Canadian crude shipped by rail across Canada. In fact, the data is for the amount of Canadian crude shipped across all of North America.
    Jan 13, 2014 2:00 PM ET