The National Transportation Safety Board yesterday called on the railroad industry and the federal government to join forces in an attempt to reduce the number of railroad derailments involving hazardous materials.
In a report growing out of hearings earlier this year, the NTSB proposed a three-phase government-industry plan that goes into considerably more detail than recently announced Department of Transportation programs in the same area.
The recommendations of the board are directed to the Department of Transportation, the Association of American Railroads, the Environmental Protection Agency and the rail industry's own Task Force on Rail Transportation of Hazardous Materials.
The board calls for the following performance standards:
By Dec. 31, 1978: Installation of special safety shelf couplers and head shields on existing jumbo tank cars transporting hazardous materials.
By Dec. 31, 1981: Thermal protection of all jumbo tank cars; development of an emergency notification system to alert firefighters and the public of hazardous materials involved in emergencies; establishment of hazardous materials emergency response centers and "strike teams of experts to assist at accident scenes; closer DOT cooperation with the EPA; creation and distribution of a single hazardous materials emergency manual; and documentation and dissemination of accident information.
Within 3 to 10 years: Establishment of a hazardous materials routing system similar to the system used on highways to route such materials around densely populated areas; research into the causes of track deterioration; and increased state participation in railroad safety regulation.
In its report, the Safety Board acknowledged that DOT "has a limited ability to insure that tank car owners comply as scheduled."