12.9.13

PLACARDS MATTER.

At the time of the Lac-Megantic train explosion,  I suggested that corporate restructuring oft involved cutting corners.
Park a train for crew rest with the operator on short time, though, and there's lots of potential for bad things to happen.

That seems to be the common error in all corporate downsizing efforts: as long as nominal conditions prevail, the bottom line gets richer.  Let something small, or something large, go wrong, and things turn sour for the company, and its neighbours, very quickly indeed.
It transpires that the corner-cutting began at the oilfield.
Canadian rail investigators say tests confirm crude oil involved in the Lac Mégantic crash behaved more like gasoline than expected.

In a mid-morning news conference, Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators told the news media that samples they took from the tank car train involved in the July 6 crash in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, and one train behind it, had lower flash points, making the oil more dangerous than it was described in shipping documents.

Don Ross, the lead English-speaking transport agency investigator, says the crude oil in the trains was described as Packing Group III, which includes diesel fuel and “bunker-type, thick, gooey oils.”

Instead, Ross says, crude oil in the trains tested would be more appropriately described as Packing Group II liquids, that include varieties of gasoline and kerosene. Ross says the finding are limited to the two trains tested, and that the Transportation Safety Board cannot comment on whether the shipments are representative of other crude oil trains.
Never mind those other trains. We have evidence that on at least two trains, a loading platform foreman accepted the wrong kind of car for the consignment, or a carman put the wrong placard on the car.  I am not prepared to attribute malice to what simply might be sloppiness.  That's up to Canadian courts to adjudicate.
Provincial police have conducted an extensive investigation since the incident.

According to the unnamed source, the first wave of arrests will target individuals in connection to charges of criminal negligence. A second wave will be aimed at various companies involved in the wreck. While the railroad is an obvious target, investigators are also examining the role Dakota Plains Holdings Inc. played in the trans-loading of the oil into DOT-111 tank cars, as well as others companies on both sides of the border, with the help of the FBI.

Under Article 219 of the Canadian criminal code, someone can be found guilty of criminal negligence if by doing something or omitting to do something that they are required to do they show reckless indifference to life or the security of others.
The company that owns Montreal Maine and Atlantic is in bankruptcy protection. The chain of liability: is Montreal liable for accepting cars improperly placarded? is going to make for some instructive reading going forward.

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