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Mandate of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Watchlist 2018

Translated excerpt of a letter sent to the Fédération québécoise des municipalités on 01 November 2018

This is further to the news release dated 30 October 2018, entitled The President of the FQM calls upon Minister Garneau to direct the TSB to reinstate petroleum products on its Watchlist of dangerous goods [freely translated from the French].

First of all, allow me to clarify that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency which is not subordinate to the Minister of Transport. The TSB reports to Parliament through the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. The latter plays no role in the activities or decision making of the TSB.

The TSB's mandate is to advance transportation safety by conducting investigations into accidents or incidents in the air, rail, marine and pipeline sectors under federal jurisdiction. Our Watchlist, which is published every two years, identifies the key issues that need to be addressed by government and industry to make the transportation system even safer. This list derives from the findings of our most recent investigations and from all the data available regarding transportation occurrences. It is also based on our periodic assessments of the measures implemented in response to TSB recommendations and to the previous Watchlist.

Following the Lac-Mégantic accident, the Board recommended that railway companies conduct route planning and analysis, and perform periodic risk assessments, to ensure that effective control measures are in place. We also recommended the use of more robust tank cars for the transportation by rail of large quantities of flammable liquids. These actions have been taken.

Since 2016, companies have completed risk assessments, implemented emergency response plans, and modified their routes and operational procedures; in some cases, they are using shorter trains to transport petroleum crude oil. During the first six months of 2018, just 7% of petroleum crude oil was transported in the less robust tank cars. And in September 2018, the federal Minister of Transport accelerated the phase-out of the more vulnerable, unjacketed tank cars—to 01 November 2018 for petroleum crude oil, and to 01 January 2019 for petroleum crude oil condensate.

Moreover, since the accidents in Northern Ontario in 2015, only one occurrence involving tank cars on a main track, and resulting in a spill of a small quantity, has been reported.

In light of these findings, the Board determined that the transportation of flammable liquids by rail could be removed from the Watchlist this year. However, three of the five recommendations arising from our investigation into the Lac-Mégantic accident (R14-01, R14-04, R14-05), as well as two other recommendations pertaining to the transportation of dangerous goods (R17-01) and targeted track inspections (R17-02)Footnote 1 remain outstanding. I can assure you that we continue to closely monitor this issue through our day-to-day investigations and our interactions with industry stakeholders. We will also continue to promote the actions needed to provide a fully satisfactory response to the outstanding recommendations.

Persistence and vigilance are at the core of our mandate, which is to ensure the safest possible transportation system for all Canadians and for all Quebecers—no matter what the network is or what the transported goods are.

Kathleen Fox
Transportation Safety Board of Canada