Union Pacific Railroad Taps Pierce to Build Two Hazmat Units

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These two hazmat-response units, built by Pierce on Peterbuilt 367 chassis with aluminum rescue bodies, were delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad. Photo courtesy Pierce

The railroad industry in the United States has the responsibility of safely delivering many commodities, including chemicals, coal, fuel, food and food products, forest products, grain, metals, minerals, and automobiles and parts,to name a few.

The Union Pacific (UP) railroad, one of the nation’s largest, has more than 10,000 customers that include steamship lines, automobile manufacturers and chemical manufacturers. UP serves the western coal reserves, the world’s most productive cropland, the Gulf Coast chemical industry and the rock quarries of South Texas. The railroad is the nation’s largest hauler of chemicals and one of the largest intermodal carriers—the transport of truck trailers and marine containers. It helps link production and consumption points with a network of energy, food, raw materials, and durable and consumer goods.

Along with this mode of transportation comes the responsibility of hazmat spills, and the proper apparatus needed to counter the hazard. You may ask yourself, what does this have to do with the fire service?

Recently, UP turned to the largest manufacturer of fire apparatus—Pierce Manufacturing—to build two specialized vehicles for hazmat mitigation for use on its 31,900 miles of track in 23 states. If you’re an apparatus buff like me, you’ll find these vehicles of interest.

Roots in the Fire Service
Michael Moore recently left the fire service to head up UP’s hazmat operations, and the task of designing the vehicles fell to him. “UP was in need of replacing two of its older hazmat response vehicles,” Moore says. “We had a 1987 Mack and a 1990 Peterbuilt that were due to be replaced. As with most municipal purchases, we had to go through a competitive bidding process, with Pierce Manufacturing winning the bid to build the two units.”

Moore specced the vehicle with a rescue-style body with room for a small command area and a rehab area. The vehicle travels conventionally over paved roads, not on the railroad tracks, and can pull foam trailers to and from a hazmat scene.

“We worked with the engineers at Pierce as well as the local Pierce dealer, Siddons-Martin, to design the vehicle,” Moore says. “They came down to our Fort Worth, Texas, facility to gain a better perspective on what was needed for our operations. During the build of the vehicle, we visited the Pierce factory and also viewed photos weekly that were placed online by Pierce.”

UP was able to make some minor changes, such as adding extra shelves and installing lights in various areas, while the vehicles were being built. “Working with Siddons-Martin and Pierce was great,” Moore says. “We had some minor issues fixed without any problems, and they were receptive to all of our ideas.”

Rolling Toolboxes
The vehicles are virtually rolling toolboxes, carrying hazmat suits, SCBA, railroad fittings, compressed gas pumps, drum pumps, gear pumps, portable power packs, compressors, generators, 150 feet of hydraulic lines, small and large hand tools and fire extinguishers. “Behind the cab we have a small command desk and a rehab area for our employees to rest and even sleep, if needed, on long deployments,” Moore says.

The two vehicles are staffed by 16 UP employees, with one unit deployed at Fort Worth, Texas, handling any incidents east of the Rockies, and the other in Colton, Calif., covering anything west of the Rockies. “All of the personnel who respond on the vehicle have OSHA and Hazmat Technician training,” Moore says.

Those responses typically involve spills at crossing accidents and UP yards. “Our hazmat managers are notified by the UP Emergency Response Network and will respond and work with the local fire departments on scene under the Unified Incident Command System,” Moore says. “We also use outside contractors for help if needed.”

Moore reports that the two vehicles have been working out well in all aspects. “We are really happy with the design and operation of the vehicles,” he says.

Although these vehicles are built for the specific needs of railroad operations, UP incorporated many ideas used in fire service apparatus design. The bottom line: Many apparatus manufacturers can meet any need, as long as you plan carefully with the engineers and work closely with the local dealer to see your ideas through to execution.

UP Specs

  • 2012 Peterbuilt 367 6 x 4 tandem chassis
  • Pierce aluminum rescue body
  • 455-hp Cummins ISX 15 engine
  • Allison EVS 4000 RDS transmission
  • 10-kW Onan diesel generator
  • Wilburt Night Scan light tower
  • 60,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight

Pennwell