Movement is key for an efficient truck and rail facility. With tanks coming in, products flowing out and hands-on operators making it all possible, truck and rail facilities are humming with activity. However, that activity and constant human interaction can also be a source of potential safety challenges.

On-site safety incidents can range from the extreme, such as a burst hose leaking toxic chlorine gas from a railroad tanker, to the more subtle, like developing an injury from continually connecting heavy hoses in tight spaces. By considering operational safety during the design for all disciplines — civil, mechanical, structural and electrical — truck and rail facility owners can anticipate and better avoid safety issues.

How to Incorporate Safety in Design

A safe facility begins with a sturdy foundation, specifically a layout designed with safe use in mind. This determines the structure of how operators will access what they need and move within the space, including location of tracks, turning radius for trucks and location of hose connections. Before that design is finalized, the needs and spaces of the other disciplines are evaluated and coordinated.

For example, the civil design might not leave enough room for the tank size and clearance the mechanical group is planning, which could also impact piping layout and access requirements. Similarly, electrical might need to run cables through an access point, creating a potential trip hazard, so the walkway would need to be adjusted.

While each discipline has its own requirements, they all support and impact each other, so close collaboration during the design phase of any truck and rail project is essential for safety. Thorough reviews and coordination in upfront design also help avoid any possible delayed adjustments during construction phases, which could negatively pit cost and schedule repercussions against safety for a facility owner.

High-Level Considerations for Safe Design

Safety standards for all disciplines involved in a truck and rail facility project are robust and intertwined. However, the main areas of consideration for each include:


  • Access and visibility
  • Containment for drips and catastrophic failure of tanks
  • Turning radius


  • Disconnection prevention
  • Ergonomics
  • Fire protection
  • Flow rates
  • Heat tracing
  • Vapor handling
  • Venting


  • Bollards and vehicle barriers
  • Fall protection
  • Fixed or flexible access platforms
  • Loading/unloading activities and frequency of access based on top- or bottom-loading operations
  • Personal fall arrest
  • Vehicle clearance


  • Emergency shutdown (ESD) at paths of egress
  • Flame detection
  • Gas detection
  • Grounding and static grounding
  • Hazardous area classification
  • Lighting


  • Emergency response plan
  • Overfill protection
  • Thermal expansion

Focus on Safety

Safety is a critical component of every project, especially when constructing intricate and active facilities like those that truck and rail require. Safe job sites help see that no harm is done to employees, surrounding communities and facility operations. By partnering with a firm that weaves safety into the fabric of its culture, like Burns & McDonnell, truck and rail facility owners can rest assured that each project phase will be implemented with safety in mind.


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Eric Burks is a CAD section manager specializing in the safe, efficient design and execution of truck and rail projects for chemicals, oil and gas clients.