IAFC 150 anniversary logo

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Adopts Final Rule to Amend Real-Time Train Consist Information Requirements

On June 24, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a final rule altering the Hazardous Materials Regulations found in 49 C.F.R. §§171—180. The final rule is in response to a mandate contained in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Pub. L. 114-94), as amended by the Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act (Pub. L. 117-58).

The final rule from PHMSA requires the following of railroads: (1) real-time information concerning transport of hazardous materials, (2) notification of incidents to the primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and (3) testing of notification systems.

  1. Railroads transporting hazardous materials must develop and maintain real-time information regarding the contents and positioning of each hazardous materials rail car in the train. This information is to be maintained in a place other than on the train and must be provided by electronic media or device to first responders, emergency response officials, and law enforcement located along the train's route. PHMSA includes the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and PHMSA itself in its list of emergency response officials.
  2. Following an accident involving a train carrying hazardous materials or another incident involving an actual or suspected release of hazardous materials from a train, the responsible railroad must immediately inform the PSAP that has primary responsibility for the area of the event, as well as the track owner.
  3. At least once annually, railroads must test their emergency notification plans and systems.

PHMSA’s final rule is being applied to Class I, Class II (Regional), and Class III (Short-Line) railroads, although the requirements may differ for Class III railroads. Furthermore, PHMSA provides a delayed compliance period of one year for Class I railroads and a delayed compliance period of two years for Class II and Class III railroads.

Class III railroads can either comply with the three requirements discussed above (automatically applicable to Class I and Class II railroads), or they can choose to meet the following five requirements:.

  1. The Class III railroad must develop a written plan that explains its procedures to transmit accurate train consist information and provide emergency notifications in the event of an incident requiring a hazardous materials emergency response. The plan must require that, in addition to the train crew, there must also be at least one other person not on the train who will provide the train consist information to emergency responders.
  2. The railroad must notify all local emergency response agencies, emergency management officials, and primary PSAPs along the train route of the contents of its written plan.
  3. The railroad must follow the plan when an incident occurs.
  4. The railroad must provide a copy of the plan to the Department of Transportation.
  5. The railroad must conduct an annual emergency notification test to ensure the plan is effective.

The implementation of this rule will place firefighters, emergency management officials, and other emergency response agencies in a more informed position when called upon to respond to incidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials. The International Association of Fire Chiefs would like to express our appreciation to PHMSA for moving this impactful proposal forward. The IAFC will continue to work closely with PHMSA on real-time train consist information as we are committed to strengthening our membership’s ability to safely and effectively respond to hazardous materials emergencies.

By: John Drummond, Legal Intern for the IAFC’s Government Relations & Policy department

Related News

You are not logged in.