Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dugald Tank Car Incident Report

This story is getting some exposure here in Winnipeg. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) released a report on a tank car incident at Dugald, MB in January 2009.

Basically the end sill (including the coupler) tore off the end of tank car UTLX 37605 when CN 304 was starting to pull. Essentially this is a broken knuckle issue, except that instead of a broken knuckle, a piece of the tank car pulled off. The train went into emergency as expected, there was no derailment and no release of hazardous materials. The issue is that the end sill was known to be damaged and the car should never have been on that train.

The report has some interesting reading. Union Pacific noted the sill was cracked back in mid November. A temporary weld was made and the car was to be handled only as the last car in a train, and not to be humped. When it crossed the border into Canada, that note was lost and the car was handled many times. It was supposed to go to Procor for repair but it appears that instruction was also lost.

This conclusion is particularly damning: "Deficiencies in Canadian National's (CN) waybilling and car tracking systems permitted tank car UTLX 37605 to be placed on 6 different trains, switched at least 13 times and humped 7 times with a severely damaged and cracked A-end stub sill."

I think CN is fortunate that the accident happened at such a low speed and there was no release of product. Hopefully corrective actions have been taken and this type of event will not happen again.

5 comments:

Peter said...

I think the Board was too hard on CN.

There is an issue here on whether or not the forwarding carrier had a responsibility of embargoing the car for safety purposes. The same logic holds true for CN.

If I drive on the highway after having a drink, both I as the driver and the barkeepper are liable. One for being DUI and the other for serving a drunk.

Should not the same logic hold here?

Is not the wider community at risk for the forwardking line giving the defective car to CN and CN for moving it?

The findings are too one sided.

Train Geek said...

I have to disagree, based on the report. It appears that UP did make an error in labeling it as a residue car, but they did all the right things to try to get it fixed. As the report says, the car owner gave them permission to send it for repair. Maybe there were no certified repair shops closer than the Sarnia one?

Once it got into CN's hands, CN basically lost the electronic tag saying it had to be the last car on the train and not be humped.

As long as all the appropriate information was given to CN by UP, UP has done its job and has no further involvement with the car.

I don't think your analogy applies. How about this one: I have a used car for sale. I advertise it with a notice that the frame is cracked. You purchase it, then drive it for a while until the frame breaks and you cause an accident. Am I liable as well?

Peter said...

A used car with a cracked frame, even, advertised, is not roadworthy. Declaring the defect is full disclosure; however, it places innocent people at risk. It is in the public's best interest that the car be "quarantined" until deemed roadworthy.

This is no different than a railcar. Har the car in question came off the rail at high speed and made a toxic spill or killed someone, who is liable. How long would it take CN to counter claim against the other railroad.

Train Geek said...

Personally, I don't think CN would have a claim against UP at all. CN knew it was damaged when UP gave it to them. They failed to get it repaired.

But I'm not a lawyer nor am I familiar with interchange rules... :)

Good discussion.

Luc Mallet said...

I have to say, I am a little confused about the whole "HOME SHOP FOR REPAIR DO NOT LOAD" stencil use. You would think they would automatically place the stencil when needed, and not rely only on the electronic systems (regulation allows this), especially on a car carrying dangerous goods? This seems even more important when interchange happens, since I suspect that bad order information is not transfered from one system to another (I imagine a sticky note on a waybill, being exchanged from a UP conductor to a CN one).

I agree with the board's views on CN, but I think the regulations should have forced UP to stencil the car.