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2019 Rail Tank Car Safety Report

Date: Tuesday, October 29, 2019

One-third (34%) of the nation’s rail tank cars met new safety requirements in 2018, up from 20% in 2017, according to Fleet Composition of Rail Tank Cars Carrying Flammable Liquids: 2019 Report released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The report, measuring industry-wide progress in manufacturing and modifying safer rail tank cars that transport flammable liquids, has been submitted to Congress.

The fastest growing portion of the fleet are the combined 18% that met the new safety requirements for DOT-117 New and the 17% that met the new safety requirements for DOT-117R. Of the tank cars meeting the new safety requirements, 52% were new and 48% had been retrofitted. The non-jacketed DOT-111s, which had made up 66% of the fleet in 2013 are down to just 35% of the fleet in 2018. Jacketed tank cars have a layer of insulation and/or thermal protection between the tank shell and jacket that stabilizes the temperature of the liquid contained in the tank car and reduces the conductivity of heat from outside sources to the contents of the tank car

The report describes the progress of tank car safety upgrades from 2013 through 2018, by tank car type and type of flammable liquid. Class 3 flammable liquids most commonly include crude oil, ethanol, and refined petroleum products.

In 2018, 80,298 rail tank cars were used to carry Class 3 flammable liquids, an increase of 4% since 2017, but still down from a high in 2015 of 92,358 tank cars.

Survey results indicate that 15,110 DOT-117 and DOT-117R tank cars are projected to be built or retrofitted in 2019.

The annual BTS report is required under the 2015 FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act), Section 7308. Additionally, Section 7308(c) requires BTS to estimate the antici­pated number of DOT-117 and DOT-117R tank cars for each year from 2018 through 2029 by collecting data from tank car shops that build or retrofit tank cars. It is expected that by the end of the transition period in 2029 all Class 3 flammable liquids will be carried in rail tank cars that meet or exceed the DOT-117 or DOT-117R specification.

Media contact: Dave Smallen, (202) 366-5568, david.smallen@dot.gov.

Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2019