OTTAWA—Industry support is rolling in for Ottawa’s decision to phase out older model DOT-111 tank cars from operation on Canada’s railways, but at least one operator says the latest directives miss the mark on safety.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) lauded a Transport Canada decision last week to phase out the older tank cars—the same ones found at the centre of the July 2013 disaster in Lac-Megantic, Que.—but said the federal department came up short in addressing human factors affecting rail safety in Canada.
Announced last week, the federal transportation ministry said it will also implement requirements for rail operators to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods on Canada’s rail lines.
But according to CP, reducing train speeds fails to address the cause of accidents, and the move is not “a solution to rail safety.”
The rail giant said it would instead like to see the government mandate inward-facing cameras in locomotives to monitor crews operating trains across the country.
“CP believes there is a safety benefit through the use of this technology,” company spokesperson Ed Greenberg said in an email. “Installation of inward-facing video cameras will provide additional security for train crew employees, enhance CP’s compliance with operating rules and improve overall safety.”
When asked whether Transport Canada would consider mandating video cameras in locomotives, a department spokesperson pointed to an Advisory Council on Rail Safety (ACRS) report that determined the installation of audio and video recorders should be voluntary.
While rail firms support the move, the 2013 report found unions representing rail crews oppose the use of such devices for compliance monitoring.
According to industry estimates, it would cost roughly $10,000 per locomotive to install inward-facing video cameras.
Estimates peg annual maintenance costs at $250 to $500 per locomotive.
Greenberg said CP management is reviewing whether it will implement its own mandate for on-board cameras.
The rail firm also said it would like to see Transport Canada introduce reduced grade crossings—rail crossings that are level with roadways—in a bid to cut down on pedestrian and vehicle-related incidents.
“CP believes instituting a grade crossing program would decrease the number of serious incidents that occur in Canada and would further advance safety in Canada,” Greenberg said.
“Unfortunately, grade crossing accidents happen at all speeds. The concern is with pedestrians and motorists failing to be aware at grade crossing with some also attempting to beat a train.”
Implemented April 23, 2014, the latest Transport Canada directives come almost 10 months after the disaster in Lac-Megantic that killed an estimated 47 people.
The move to phase out the oldest of the DOT-111 cars in Canada is expected to see about 5,000 tankers go out of service.
Last month CP and rival Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) both said they were working to fix or replace the DOT-111s they use.
Greenberg said CP management is currently reviewing any potential impacts the move may have on its operations.
With files from The Canadian Press