Transload facilities load and unload many different types of materials, from canned foods and bulk food products to plastics to chemicals and much more. Each of these materials requires certain transloading equipment to make its way safely and securely from the railcar and onto the next leg of its journey. As you plot the most efficient and cost-effective rail route, look for transload facilities with the right equipment and procedures to meet the safety and security requirements of your materials.
Transloading Equipment Requirements: What to Look for in a Transloading Facility
Different transload facilities are equipped to handle different materials. Some materials may have more stringent safety and transloading equipment requirements because of the dangers they pose to workers and surroundings, such as materials that are flammable, explosive, radioactive, or give off hazardous fumes. Other materials may be harmless, but they must be handled carefully because of the dangers of contamination, such as food products.
A material’s hazard class will provide more information about specific safety measures required to handle it. 49 CFR 173.31 and 49 CFR 174.67 provide additional details on transloading procedures and precautions.
There are many different types of conveyance equipment for transloading facilities. Some utilize simple mechanical force for conveyance, such as conveyor belts. This type of conveyance is particularly useful for items that might be easily broken apart or damaged during unloading.
Liquid materials will use pumps attached to gates or valves on the bottom of the railcar. There are many different types of pumps, with different specifications and mechanisms. Explosive liquids, such as acetic acid, formic acid, and formalin, and flammable liquids, such as ethyl ether, acetone, and benzene, require special pumps to prevent static charge, combustion through friction, or sparking hazards.
Some liquids as well as plastics and powders require pneumatic conveyance to minimize spillage and dust. Pneumatic conveyance devices help to minimize the materials’ exposure to the open air, preventing contamination or combustion from oxygen in the air, humidity, and other factors.
When working with palletized items or when moving entire containers, the facility must have the proper lifting equipment. For moving pallets, the facility must have forklifts and personnel trained to use them. Moving containers will require cranes that are suitable for the weight of the container, and personnel who can operate them.
Many liquid materials require heating before they can be unloaded. This might be a seasonal problem, where the liquid becomes frozen in the tank car, or the liquid may simply require heating to be viscous enough to move. Low pressure steam boilers heat the tankers’ heat transfer coils and bring the liquid to the proper temperature. Different temperatures will be required for different materials, and the right steam boiler will show the pressure and temperature as it heats the liquid.
Even with the best precautions and equipment, spills and leaks can still happen. For caustic or otherwise hazardous liquids, spills can seriously endanger the facility staff, or the surrounding city or environment. For this reason, spill containment precautions are essential. The spill containment barriers should be reinforced with curbs and dyking, preventing errant liquids from escaping the area.
Some flammable or combustible materials can be ignited by static electricity. To protect against this, the rails surrounding transloading stations for flammable or combustible materials should be securely grounded and bonded. Grounded rods connected to the rail and looping wire between rails create a continuous line which maintains resistance across the rail and prevents the transfer of charge.
In many cases, materials will require intermittent storage between rail lines and the next leg of the journey. In this case, the equipment to store the materials must also be safe and secure, preventing leakage, static electricity, contamination, theft and more. This might include the appropriate storage tanks, warehouse storage facilities, or on-track storage.
Transload equipment requirements and what you need in a transloading facility will vary according to the materials that you’re moving. If you’re unsure if a transloading facility is suitable for your materials, contact the manager of the facility for details. To see details on transloading facilities near you, use the transloading terminal map.