Since the introduction of the FAST Act in 2015, the railroad industry has steadily adopted DOT-117 tank cars in flammable services to phase out tanks built prior to the implementation of the latest standards. The goal for rail shippers is to stay ahead of the 2029 FAST Act deadline to prevent disruptions to their shipments.
However, due to recent Senate activity, the timeline for those deadlines could be moving up.
Senate Bill Could Move the Deadline Up
On May 10, 2023, the Senate Commerce Committee approved S. 576. If passed by both the Senate and House as currently written, the bill will change the original FAST Act deadline from May 1, 2029, to December 31, 2028.
Despite being approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, the bill still doesn’t have full support within the House and Senate. For the bill to pass, adjustments to the amendments, which may affect the proposed 2028 deadline, may be necessary.
PHMSA and FRA Advise Replacing Cars “As Soon As Practicable.”
On March 22, 2023, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a joint advisory notice concerning the social and environmental consequences of a recent derailment.
The advisory advises all “entities who own or use DOT-111 tank cars (including DOT-111 tanks cars built to the CPC-1232 specification) in flammable liquid service to consider removing these tank cars from this service, and replacing them with DOT-117 or DOT-117R specification tank cars as soon as practicable.”
Although the notice serves simply as an advisory and does not change the current regulatory deadlines in the FAST Act, PHMSA and FRA are ready to “take additional regulatory action in the future if the NTSB investigation of the East Palestine, Ohio derailment reveals the need for more concrete advisories or requirements.”
See the full notice from the PHMSA and FRA here.
Acting Faster than the FAST Act Deadline
With increased public and governmental attention on the railroad industry and the possibility of accelerating the FAST Act, companies should be looking to transition to DOT-117 tank cars sooner rather than later.
That’s especially true because delivery time for new DOT-117 tank cars currently average around 12-18 months.
For companies that will need to transition their flammable fleets to DOT-117 tanks, the strategic approach to best avoid any costly disruptions in operation is establish your transition plan as soon as possible.
For additional information on DOT flammable tank car regulations and the FAST Act, visit Railway Supply Institute.
Also, MRC’s team is experienced leasing DOT-117 tank cars, so if you have any questions about managing the transition or you want to have a conversation with somebody about the issue, don’t hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable team.