Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I have some familiar faces with me today. Just to review, I have with me Luc Bourdon, the director general of rail safety at Transport Canada, and Madam Marie-France Dagenais, the director general of the transportation of dangerous goods directorate. With us today for the first time is Mr. Scott Kennedy, the acting director general of marine safety.
As you mentioned, we had our session on Monday. We talked about the safety management systems at Transport Canada. Today we'd like to give you a bit of an overview of the transportation of dangerous goods program.
The TDG program is governed by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, but despite the name of the act, it was actually updated in 2009. The TDG act is somewhat unique in Transport Canada, as it is, I believe, our sole piece of safety legislation that carries with it criminal penalties, i.e., contraventions of the act could result in jail terms. It applies to every Canadian who imports, handles, offers for transport, or transports dangerous goods.
The act focuses on public safety, prevention, and response. It looks at people, property, health, and the environment. It's a multimodal act, so it applies not just to one mode but to all modes: air, rail, marine, and road.
I'm following the deck here. I'm sorry. I should have mentioned that. I'm on page 3.
Right now, there are over 51.6 million commercially available chemicals, and the number of available chemicals continues to grow each year. With that growth, obviously we have to determine what the properties of those chemicals are so we can assure ourselves that they're going to be transported in the safest possible fashion.
There are probably about 30 million shipments of dangerous goods every year, and 99.998% of those shipments arrive without serious incident, but obviously it's the 0.002% that concerns us the most. That is the number we're trying to reduce on a continual basis.
As I mentioned, our foundation is the TDG act. It provides us with the authority to develop policy, verify compliance, conduct research to enhance safety and security, guide emergency response, and develop regulations and standards to manage risk and promote public safety while mitigating the consequences of an incident during the transportation of dangerous goods.
Our TDG program is based on the premise that properly classifying a dangerous good while ensuring the dangerous good is transported in the required means of containment, along with other safety measures such as emergency response assistance plans, or ERAPs, documentation, safety marks, reporting, and training, are all crucial elements in the safe transportation of dangerous goods.
With that brief introduction, Mr. Chair, I'll now ask our director general of dangerous goods, Madam Dagenais, to go into more detail on how the program works and how we apply it at Transport Canada.
One of the first components in the transportation of dangerous goods is classification. Dangerous goods are classified under nine classes: explosive, gases, flammable liquids, oxidizers, poisonous substances, infectious substances, radioactive material, corrosive substances, and a miscellaneous category. Each of more than 2,500 groups of dangerous goods, such as chlorine, gasoline, or corrosive liquid, has a unique UN number and a unique UN shipping name.
Currently, regulatory requirements require industry to properly classify their dangerous goods prior to offering the dangerous goods for transport. This includes requirements to classify crude oil prior to import or offering it for transport. The existing classification regime is harmonized with the United Nations' requirements and is aligned with U.S. requirements.
In response to the Transportation Safety Board's safety letter of September 11, 2013, to Transport Canada and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the department issued a protective direction on October 17, 2013, to ensure that the classification requirements of the regulations were followed. The protective direction requires importers and shippers to retest their crude oil prior to shipping, to meet the current regulation, and if the test is older than July 7, 2013, to classify and ship their product at the highest packing group level until testing is completed.
One of the other major components of the program is the means of containment. Companies that engage in designing, manufacturing, repairing, testing, or requalifying different types of means of containment, such as trucks, tank cars, and cylinders used or intended to be used in importing, offering for transport, handling, or transporting dangerous goods in Canada, must register with and be certified by Transport Canada. Inspections are conducted to verify compliance with standards. U.S. and Canadian standards are equivalent. Reciprocity is in place to enable free movement across the border of Canadian and U.S. tank cars, tank trucks, and other means of containment.
On page 7, I talk about the oversight of the program, between the provinces, the territories, and the federal government. Memorandums of agreement have been signed with all provinces and territories. The MOAs outline how the provincial and federal governments will work together to enforce the act and its regulations. Transport Canada primarily conducts enforcement activities for rail, marine, aviation, and shippers and manufacturers. Provinces undertake inspection on the road. The premise is that if a dangerous good is offered for transport in compliance with the act and the regulations, the transportation of dangerous goods to destination should be conducted safely.
The target and inspection focus is on manufacturers, producers, shippers, and means of containment facilities that do the repairing and testing. TDG inspectors also verify downstream compliance. The TDG annual inspection plan is developed on a risk-based approach, uniformly across Canada. The goal of the TDG compliance program is to find and remedy non-compliance and seek future compliance. This is accomplished through education and awareness, fines, and prosecutions.
There are more than 40,000 dangerous goods sites across Canada. There are 35 TDG field inspectors positioned, with additional resources in the modes to monitor and enforce legal requirements. There are approximately 3,000 TDG inspections of higher-risk sites done per year. An inspection looks at all components of the program, such as classification, documentation, safety marks, means of containment, training, and emergency response assistance plan when applicable.
The TDG oversight program is augmented by a random inspection program. Inspectors have various enforcement tools they may use to ensure compliance, from issuing directions to remedy a non-compliance, to tickets, and to initiating prosecution.
While situations may differ, the most important factor in determining an enforcement response is the effectiveness of the response in securing future compliance. Inspectors will also look at the alleged violation and consider the seriousness of the harm and potential harm, the intent of the person found in non-compliance, and whether this is a repeat occurrence, before the enforcement tool is determined.
In international representation, Transport Canada leads a federal delegation at the United Nations and participates in the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Marine Organization, and the North American Free Trade Association dangerous goods meetings. Transport Canada is also a technical advisor at the International Atomic Energy Agency meetings led by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Transport Canada brings forward various technical papers in support of the Canadian position on international means of containment standards, testing, documentation, training, security, and reporting.
The TDG directorate and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration works closely to ensure alignment with our means of containment standards, regulatory requirements, and oversight approach.
Provinces and territories provide input through the federal-provincial task force. The task force is comprised of representatives from all provinces and territories. The task force meets biannually prior to the international meetings. Informal bilateral meetings occur as required.
The general policy advisory council is used to consult industry, unions, municipalities, modal shippers, and first responders. Meetings are also held twice a year.
The transportation of dangerous goods regulations are adopted by all provinces and territories. They establish the regulatory requirements for the importing, handling, offering for transport, and transport of dangerous goods by all modes within Canada.
Provinces and territories are consulted through the federal-provincial task force meeting, or by bilateral meetings, and then again through publication of the Canada Gazette.
The safety standards for means of containment are developed by multi-stakeholder technical committees representing producers, manufacturers, users, inspection and test bodies, regulatory authorities, both federal and provincial, and general interest groups.
Standards are developed by organizations in accordance with the SCC rules, including the use of consensus-based decision-making, public notice, and comment requirement. Meetings are held biannually.
Means of containment standards are updated about every five years. Transport Canada will be publishing a new revised tank car standard in the coming weeks, which will enhance the DOT-111 tank car standard to include requirements for thicker steel, head shields, and top fitting protection. Currently, tanks cars in the U.S. and Canada are being built to this standard. Transport Canada is working with all of its stakeholders, including officials in the United States, as together we look to what additional requirements may be needed for the North American fleet of DOT-111 tank cars.
Certain dangerous goods that necessitate special expertise and response equipment, including propane, for example, are required to have an emergency response assistance plan. The person who offers to transport or imports the dangerous goods must submit a plan to the transportation of dangerous goods directorate. The directorate will review the plan and, if it's found adequate, will approve the plan. The ERAPs are intended to assist local emergency responders by providing them with technical experts and specialized equipment at an accident site.
Current regulations for fuel transport only require an ERAP on certain volatile fuel, as an example, gasoline, moving in interconnected trains, but not for crude oil, such as the one that was involved in the Lac Mégantic tragic incident. Transport Canada is working with industry, first responders, and municipalities to look at expanding the ERAP program to include crude oil and other flammable liquids.
Helping first responders during an incident is CANUTEC's role. CANUTEC is staffed by bilingual, professional scientists specializing in emergency response and experienced in interpreting technical information and providing advice to first responders.
The centre operates 24 hours a day and handles some 30,000 phone calls per year related to safety. Moreover, to help first responders,TC publishes the Emergency Response Guidebook. It is an informative and comprehensive guide designed for use at dangerous goods incidents occurring on a highway, aircraft, ship or railroad. It enables first responders to quickly identify the specific or generic hazard of the material involved in an incident. The guidebook also assists first responders in making initial decisions upon arriving at the scene of a dangerous goods incident. For example, it provides recommended evacuation distances, describes potential hazards of a dangerous good, supplies relevant public safety information, including first aid, as well as a recommended type of protective clothing and respiratory protection. Transport Canada makes this guidebook available online or in a PC-downloadable version. Almost 60,000 paperback copies of the most recent version of the guidebook were distributed in early spring of 2012 for all vehicles at Canadian fire departments, police departments, and ambulance services across Canada.
Finally, in 2002, the TDG put in place a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive response program. The mandate of the TDG CBRNE response program is to ensure product response services following a CBRNE incident. Such response would occur once all terrorist-related hazards have been eliminated. The CBRNE response program is based on the existing industrial emergency response network and infrastructure established under ERAP, the emergency response assistance plan requirements, pursuant to the act and regulation. The program is now in place.
This basically summarizes the various components of the TDG program. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about the program today.
Thank you again for being here to give a very good overview of the system. It's clear from the Library of Parliament notes and your testimony today that there has been significant action over the years to improve rail safety as it relates to the transportation of dangerous goods—rail, marine, and air.
In 1992 there was the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, with the improvements you pointed out in 2008 and 2009. In 2012 the Railway Safety Act was amended and strengthened, and in October 2013 there was protective direction, and again the protective direction in November 2013.
I just want to go back to a couple of the pages in the Library of Parliament's research. Looking at the graphs there, there are significant improvements in safety: a 48% decrease in rail accidents involving dangerous goods in Canada, in spite of a 60% increase in volume. I think that's a great statistic.
Now, you did point out in your testimony that 99.998% arrive without incident, but you were also clear to say that the 0.002% is our main concern, and obviously with Lac-Mégantic and other incidents, we certainly agree on that point. But I think it's important that we note that the great decrease in the number of incidents is something Canadians should take some solace in.
I'm wondering if you would have any comparison, in terms of rail safety, in the number of incidents related to transportation of dangerous goods in other jurisdictions. This may be an unfair question, so if you're not prepared to answer it.... For example, Australia, the U.K., the U.S., India, and China—do we have any sort of benchmark? Not that we're going to measure ourselves because we're better—we still have to address that 0.002%—but I'm wondering if we have any handle on how other jurisdictions would relate.