Improvements to Rail Safety and the Safe Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Rail

Alongside increased volumes of oil and other dangerous goods by rail, a series of high profile incidents have heightened concerns related to rail safety, most significantly the accident in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) conducted a thorough accident investigation, issuing its final report in August 2014. The TSB issued 5 recommendations in total. Transport Canada has accepted, and has addressed, all the recommendations made by the TSB; however 3 of the 5 recommendations remain active.

Immediately following the tragedy, Transport Canada embarked on an aggressive and accelerated agenda to develop regulations that would enhance safe railway transportation and prevent accidents. We took concrete steps to respond to the TSB recommendations but also to a series of recommendations from other sources such as the 2007 Railway Safety Act Review and the 2013 Report of the Office of the Auditor General on the Department’s Rail Safety Oversight Program.

We've taken several targeted measures to strengthen railway safety and the transportation of dangerous goods by rail since the Lac-Mégantic accident. Below is a summary:

Measures Description

Hiring of more Inspectors

  • The number of rail safety inspectors increased from 107 to 155.
  • The number of inspectors who inspect dangerous goods tripled from 30 to 90.

Enhanced Standards for Tank Cars

In May 2015, Transport Canada, along with the U.S. brought forward a new tank car specifically designed for the transport of all flammable liquids. The TC/DOT 117 tank car is a much more robust jacketed tank car. It is made with:

  • thicker steel (9/16 of an inch);
  • thermal protection;
  • full head shield protection
  • top fitting protection; and
  • a new bottom outlet valve design

Reduced Operating Speeds

  • Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes: In 2016, Transport Canada established these rules which require railway companies carrying large volumes of dangerous goods to reduce the speed of their trains:
    • under 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour) at all times, and
    • to under 40 miles per hour (64 kilometres per hour) in highly urbanized areas
  • In addition to speed restrictions, the rules require railway companies to carry out additional and more frequent inspections of their tracks.

Key Route Risk Assessments

  • Under the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes, railway companies must conduct risk assessments that consider, at a minimum, 28 factors to determine the level of risk associated with each key route.
  • Railway companies must also incorporate input from municipalities and other levels of local government into key route risk assessments through a publicly-accessible website.

Mandatory use of sufficient hand brakes

Securement of Unattended Trains: Rule 112 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules has been amended to impose stricter requirements on the securement of unattended trains, including rail companies must adhere to a chart on minimum handbrake requirements; before leaving any equipment in a given location, a railway employee must confirm with another employee the manner in which the equipment was secured; and, when railway equipment is left unattended in high risk locations, operators must take more measures to secure it.

More stringent regulations

  • Safety Management Systems (SMS) Regulations, 2015: An SMS provides railway companies with a focused approach to building a “safety culture” throughout the company and includes the company’s safety goals and performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, procedures, and monitoring and evaluation processes.
  • Since 2015, Transport Canada has increased the frequency of SMS audits to a three-to-five year cycle, or more frequently if required. We have also recruited specialized auditors to enhance the effectiveness of the SMS audit program.
  • Railway Operating Certificate Regulations: A Railway Operating Certificate (ROC) is an official document issued by Transport Canada that authorizes a federal railway company or a local railway company to operate in Canada by meeting baseline safety requirements.
  • Railway Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs) Regulations: Since 2015, Transport Canada may now issue an AMP to a company found to be in non-compliance with rules and regulations. Maximum penalties are $250,000 for a corporation and $50,000 for an individual. We may impose them for each day of the contravention.
  • Amendments to the Railway Transportation Information Regulations: Set out what information and data elements companies must submit to Transport Canada. They were amended to include railway safety data (known as “leading indicators”) to help proactively identify areas of risk.
  • Grade Crossings Regulations: Designed to help reduce the frequency and severity of accidents at Canada’s approximately 23,000 federally-regulated grade crossings, therefore saving lives and preventing injuries and derailments.

More information shared with municipalities

In April 2016, the Minister of Transport issued Protective Direction 36 which provides registered communities access to comprehensive dangerous goods information provided by railway companies, including the volume and nature of dangerous goods being transported by rail. Communities with a railway operating through them can use this information to assess risks, plan for emergencies and guide first responder training.

Better support for first responders

  • The resources available to first responders in the community now include competency guidelines, a guidebook and an online training tool for first responders.
  • A Transport Canada publication, You’re Not Alone!, is a quick reference guide for first responders coping with a major rail accident.
  • First responders also have around-the-clock support from scientists at CANUTEC, Transport Canada’s emergency response centre.

Stronger liability and compensation rules

  • In 2016, stronger liability and compensation rules for federally regulated railways came into force. Federally regulated railways now must carry a minimum level of insurance, based on the type and volume of dangerous goods they carry. The amount ranges from $25 million to $1 billion. Railways need to show they have this coverage before the Canadian Transportation Agency issues the certificate of fitness they need to operate.
  • The new rules also created the Fund for Railway Accidents Involving Designated Goods financed by shippers of crude oil by rail. The fund covers any damages above the railways’ mandatory insurance levels for accidents involving crude oil.