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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #20-0039

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Rescar Companies

Individual Name: Jay Standish

Location State: IL Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

August 26, 2020

Jay Standish
Vice President of Quality Assurance
Rescar Companies
1101 31st Street
Suite 250
Downers Grove, IL 60515

Reference No. 20-0039

Dear Mr. Standish:

This letter is in response to your March 10, 2020, letter requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to the requirements for a quality assurance program (QAP).

We have paraphrased and answered your questions as follows:

Q1. You ask what process(es) and standard(s) repair facilities' QAPs need to include in order to comply with the "critical to quality" inspection criteria being applied.

A1. The HMR does not define the term "critical to quality." However, § 179.7 requires tank car facilities to have a QAP approved by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Specifically, § 179.7(b)(5) requires that a QAP must have a description of the manufacturing, repair, inspection, testing, and qualification or maintenance program, including the acceptance criteria, so that an inspector can identify the characteristics of the tank car and the elements to inspect, examine, and test at each point.

Due to the diverse nature of activities related to the qualification of a tank car for service, PHMSA cannot qualify a specific standard or process as conforming to the performance standard of § 179.7(b)(5) through a letter of interpretation. The determination of whether a QAP meets the requirements of § 179.7 considers all the specific actions the tank car facility is responsible for performing to qualify the tank car for service. In general, acceptance criteria must include the characteristics of the tank car and the elements to inspect, examine, and test at each point. This includes tank car fabrication and construction materials, and service equipment intended for installation onto a tank car, which must be inspected, examined and tested in accordance with a facility's QAP (see § 179.7(b)(4)).

The approval of QAPs, including this quality assurance element, is done in accordance with the AAR's Manual of Standards and Recommended Practices, Section J, Specification for Quality Assurance.

Q2. You ask whether all the activities set forth in the AAR Manual of Standards and Recommended Practices, Section C, Part III, Appendix B,, are required to be performed by a tank car facility.

A2. The answer is no. Offeror facilities that only perform pre-trip inspections of a tank car, to ensure the tank car is in proper condition and safe for transportation from point of origin to destination, are not "tank car facilities" and are not subject to the QAP requirements of § 179.7. However, any person who engages in the qualification of a tank car meets the definition of a "tank car facility" and is subject to all applicable regulations. Note that the AAR revised its Manual of Standards and Recommended Practices, Section C, Part III, Appendix B on December 19, 2019, to align with this position as reflected in PHMSA's October 8, 2019, Letter of Interpretation to the Railway Supply Institute (Reference No. 19-0117).

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.


Dirk Der Kinderen
Chief, Standards Development Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

179.7, 179.7(b)(4), 179.7(b)(5),

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
179.7 Quality assurance program