01/10/2014 16:54 EST | Updated 03/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Thicker, safer DOT-111 railcars pitched by safety regulator

Transport Canada proposed new rules for rail cars Friday that would require new DOT-111 tank cars be built with thicker steel requirements, as well as adding top fitting and head shield protection.

The amendment would take tank car requirements that the industry has largely already agreed to, and turn them into binding regulations.

"The Government of Canada is committed to working with everyone involved to look at every possible way to increase safety when dangerous goods are transported by rail," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in a release.

The proposed amendment will also enhance the classification regime for the transport of dangerous goods. Specifically, it requires that the person who classifies a dangerous good before transport keep a record of classification of those goods, as well as a record of the sampling method for crude oil, the ministry said in a release.

Safety concerns

DOT-111 rail cars were used in several recent high-profile train accidents, including the Lac-Mégantic disaster last year and the incident this week when 19 cars derailed in New Brunswick.

The cylindrical DOT-111 rail cars are a ubiquitous mainstay of the North American rail fleet, but have faced criticism in recent years for some of their design flaws. 

Those criticisms have stepped up with their increased use to transport oil and other combustibles across North America.

In 2009, there were 529 carloads of oil shipped by rail across Canada, the Railway Association of Canada says. By last year, that figure jumped to 160,000 carloads.

The Association of American Railroads says there are roughly 228,000 DOT-111 rail cars currently in operation across the United States.