Information Net for September 24

Rail Car Design Flaw Ignored

Associated Press

Read by: NICKI KF4DHK

Oil Tanker

DOT-111 Tanker (credit: nikonlarry)

CHICAGO — For two decades, one of the most commonly used type of rail tanker has been allowed to haul hazardous liquids from coast to coast even though transportation officials were aware of a dangerous design flaw that almost guarantees the car will tear open in an accident, potentially spilling cargo that could catch fire, explode or contaminate the environment.

The rail and chemical industries have committed to a safer design for new tankers but are pressing regulators not to require modifications to tens of thousands of existing cars, despite a spike in the number of accidents as more tankers are put into service to accommodate soaring demand for ethanol, the highly flammable corn-based fuel usually transported by rail.

Derailments have triggered chemical spills and massive blasts like one in July in Columbus, Ohio, that blew up with such intensity that one witness said it “looked like the sun exploded.” Some communities with busy railways are beginning to regard the tankers as a serious threat to public safety.

Read by: RANDY KJ4TFU

“There’s a law of averages that gives me great concern,” said Jim Arie, fire chief in Barrington, a wealthy Chicago suburb where ethanol tankers snake through a bustling downtown. “Sometimes I don’t sleep well at night.”

He’s not the only one. The town’s mayor is trying to build a national coalition to push for safety reforms.

The tanker, known as the DOT-111, is a workhorse of the American rail fleet, with a soda-can shape that makes it one of the most easily recognizable cars on freight routes.

The tanker itself is not suspected of causing derailments, but its steel shell is too thin to resist puncture in accidents. The ends are especially vulnerable to tears from couplers that can rip off between cars. Unloading valves and other exposed fittings on the tops of tankers can also break during rollovers.

The flaws were noted as far back as a 1991 safety study.

The cost of retrofitting existing tankers is estimated conservatively at $1 billion and would be shouldered mostly by the ethanol-makers who own and lease the cars. The rail industry points to its improving safety record, but that’s little comfort to most communities.

“There’s a risk every day of affecting lots of people in one incident,”lots of property, but obviously most importantly, lots of people’s lives.”

ARRL Welcomes NASA Astronaut Lee Morin, KF5DDB, to 2012 National Convention

09/10/2012

Read by:PAUL KJ4WQN

NASA Astronaut Lee Morin, KF5DDB, will be a special guest at the 2012 ARRL National Convention at Pacificon — held October 12-14 — in Santa Clara, California. Morin, an ARRL member, served as a Mission Specialist on Atlantis for STS-110 that launched in April 2002. During this 13th shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS), he performed two extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) — also known as spacewalks — the first time that the station’s robotic arm was used to maneuver spacewalkers around the station. Morin currently serves in the US Navy at the rank of Captain. He also holds an MD and a PhD in Microbiology, both from New York University.

Read by: MARTHA KJ4RIQ

Pacificon attendees will have the chance to meet and greet Morin in the ARRL exhibit area (times and locations will be posted). He will also present a forum at Pacificon and will be the speaker at Saturday night’s banquet where he will share his experiences about spaceflight and his interests in Amateur Radio. ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, has also been confirmed as a banquet speaker.

NASA ISS Ham Radio Project Engineer Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO — a key member of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program working group — will also be a guest of the ARRL at Pacificon; ARISS is a cooperative venture of NASA, the ARRL, AMSAT and other international space agencies that organizes scheduled contacts via Amateur Radio between astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS and classrooms and communities. The ARISS program provides an educational opportunity for students, teachers and the general public to learn about wireless technology and space science through Amateur Radio, inspiring interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

The 2012 ARRL National Convention will be held in Santa Clara, California, October 12-14 at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel. The convention is hosted by Pacificon, the annual convention of the ARRL’s Pacific Division and sponsored by the Mt Diablo Amateur Radio Club for more information on the 2012 ARRL National Convention at Pacificon go to this club’s web site.

How Often Should You Get an Oil Change?

Read by:JERRY KE4ETY

It’s a common question to Driving for Dollars: “How often do I really need to change the oil in my car — 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 miles?” No wonder people are confused. The more miles you travel between oil changes means you’ll lower your maintenance costs over the lifetime of your car, but some people challenge that a less frequent oil change leads to other car problems that will result in expensive repairs. Here’s the lowdown on determining the frequency of your oil changes.

Start by checking the manufacturer’s recommendations for your car. The automaker that has manufactured your car has done extensive testing on your car’s engine in the lab as well as in extreme real-world driving to determine its performance in many aspects. Through that testing, it has developed a set of guidelines for regular maintenance, which includes the frequency of oil changes.

Open your owner’s manual (or go online if you’ve lost it) to find out what the manufacturer recommends. Start with the manufacturer’s recommended mileage interval or time interval and recommendations for weight, also called viscosity.

If you’ve read the manufacturer’s recommendations thoroughly, you’ve probably seen a note that indicates you should change your oil more frequently if you run your car in severe driving situations, and there may even be notes about using a different weight of oil depending on your climate.
Many mechanics, dealers and quick-change lube shops suggest 3,000-mile oil change intervals for many cars, arguing that most of today’s American drivers operate their cars under what is considered severe driving situations.

Read by: RICK N9GRW

So-called severe-use driving situations include frequent driving in stop-and-go traffic, excessive idling, regular trips of less than five miles, frequent towing, frequent driving in extremely humid climates, and frequent driving in temperatures less than 10 degrees or more than 90 degrees.

While it is true many drivers experience at least one of these conditions regularly, it does not mean those drivers should automatically default to a 3,000-mile oil-change schedule, especially since the manufacturers’ recommendations for today’s cars range from 5,000 miles to 20,000 miles. Instead, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for severe use or, if your car has an oil-life monitor, simply change the oil when the system tells you to.
Another alternative is to spend about $25 to get your oil tested by an independent lab, which will provide an analysis of how much “life” is left in your oil as well as identify other engine problems. Use that analysis as a future guideline for the frequency of oil changes.

While changing your oil more frequently won’t harm your car, it will put a dent in your wallet. Following the 3,000-mile rule, the average American would change his car’s oil five times a year, yet the average manufacturer’s recommendation could be anywhere from one to three times a year. That’s a savings of at least two oil changes.

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