What is DOT-111?

DOT-111 is a specification for a non-pressurized rail tank car used in the U.S. In Canada they are called “CTC-111A”.

What do they carry?

They carry a wide range of hazardous and non-hazardous materials.

How many are there?

Approximately 300,000 DOT-111’s are in the North American fleet.

How many gallons does a tank car hold?

20,000 – 30,000 gallons.

What makes these tankers so unsafe?

  1. Thin skins. Upon derailment, the tanks quite often rupture causing massive spills and explosions.
  2. No head shields. Shields at both ends of the tank car would help prevent puncturing from collisions with adjacent rail cars.
  3. Not enough protection for fittings and valves. Tank cars have fittings and valves that have just a thin shield around them. Quite often in derailments, these fittings and valves are sheered off.
  4. No PRD’s – Pressure Relief Devices to prevent BLEVEs. (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion)

Is there anything unique about Bakken Crude Oil carried by these tank cars?

It has become apparent after some recent disasters that Bakken Crude Oil is more volatile than other crude oil. A safety alert issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation highlights this. In the alert, they state that Bakken’s light, sweet crude oil may be different from traditional heavy crudes and it ignites at much lower temperatures.

How can I identify if a tank car is carrying crude oil?

There is a diamond shape placard on the side of the car with a symbol for flammable liquid and a number 1267.

What is a unit train?

A unit train (sometimes called a block train) is a train hauling freight of the same type. These are shipped to the same destination without being split. Recently the number of unit trains carrying Bakken Crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars have increased exponentially along the rail-lines leading out of North Dakota.

What about the Keystone Pipeline? If it were built, wouldn’t that end the transport of oil by rail?

The Keystone Pipeline if it were built would have a maximum transport capability of 830,000 barrels per day. By the end of 2014, it is projected that 2 million barrels of oil per day will be transported by rail out of the Bakken region. Even if construction were to begin in 2014, the output of the Bakken region would far exceed what the pipeline will be able to handle.

If it were possible to send all the oil through a pipeline, there would still be a need to send oil via rail. Oil by rail can go to many more facilities than a pipeline can. The bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, oil by rail is here to stay.

What is CPC-1232?

CPC stands for Casualty Prevention Circular. The AAR (Association of American Railroads) issued Circular letter CPC-1232 which specifies new rail tank cars standards for transporting crude oil or ethanol. As of October 10, 2011, new tank cars built for transporting crude oil and ethanol comply with these new specifications:

  • Half-Height Head Shields
  • Thicker tank and head material
  • Normalized steel
  • Top fitting protection
  • Pressure Relief Device(recloseable type)

According to a Wallstreet Journal article, March 9, 2015, there are about 60,000 CPC-1232 tank cars hauling crude oil across North America as well as 100,000 of the older DOT-111 models.

As we have come to realize, these newer-style DOT-111s are breaching and causing large explosions and appear to offer little protection in a derailment — even at low speeds.

What is a DOT-117?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) / the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing a new tank car standard for transportation of crude oil and ethanol. The new tank car specification includes these specifcations:

  • Full-Height Head Shields
  • 9/16-inch normalize steel shells
  • Thermal protection
  • Enhanced protection of top fittings
  • Removal of bottom outlet handles (These frequently are torn or damaged in a derailment causing the bottom outlet valve to open.)
  • ECP brakes (Electronically Controlled Pneumatic)

There are also performance standards being considered that would offer puncture resistance at a minimum of 12 mph (side) and 18 mph (head). Until the new standards are announced by the U.S. DOT in May of 2015, the final specifications are unknown.