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All Aboard!Dow Chemical Takes the Leadin Safeguarding Rail Cars

Mon, 10/09/2006 - 11:46am

Dow Chemical announced it will be the first major U.S. chemical company to equip its hazardous material rail tank cars with global positioning systems (GPS) to immediately detect tampering with or damage to the tankers. Craig Casto, Dow's technology leader for identification systems, said the company expects to complete by next year installation of GPS equipment and cargo sensors on nearly 1,000 tank cars that carry chemicals considered toxic inhalant hazards such as ammonia, chlorine and solvents. The satellite-monitored positioning systems will give the company real-time information on exactly where their highly toxic cargoes are on the U.S. rail system. The positioning systems will include small solar panels for power. The company's high-toxic tank cars also will be equipped with RFID chips and other sensors that will let the company know if the tank car's access dome has been opened and, if pertinent, whether there have been unacceptable temperature or pressure changes in the cargo. Another sensor will detect and record any sudden acceleration of a tank car. That measure, said Casto, will let the company know if the car was struck sharply by another piece of rolling stock with a force greater than 10 times gravity. Depending on the severity of the impact, the tanker could be inspected immediately or later to see if the impact cracked any tank welds or otherwise compromised the container's integrity. Casto declined to specify costs for the installation but said it represents a significant investment. He said, however, that the technology will bring cost savings in supply chain and security management.

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