Call for rethink on truck fuel tank risk


Road safety expert John Lambert believes recent fatal fires involving trucks should lead to action on heavy-vehicle fuel tank safety. <br /><br /> In the wake of Penshurst crash in which a truck driver was incinerated and a UK motorway conflagration involving trucks, Lambert says it is time for manufacturers to consider the use of steel rather than aluminium for tanks and guards to be built around them. At an additional 1 kg per 10 litres, this would add about 40 kg to each 400 litre tank and 20 kg in guarding.

By Rob McKay | November 16, 2011

Road safety expert John Lambert believes recent fatal fires involving trucks should lead to action on heavy-vehicle fuel tank safety.

In the wake of last weekend's Penshurst crash in which a truck driver was incinerated and
last week's
UK motorway conflagration involving trucks, Lambert says it is time for manufacturers to consider the use of steel rather than aluminium for tanks and guards to be built around them.

At an additional 1 kg per 10 litres, this would add about 40 kg to each 400 litre tank and 20 kg in guarding.

"The benefit would be that less truck drivers would be burnt to death," Lambert says.

He advocates a "proper assessment" be made of the issue.

He states that turbo-chargers become so hot that that they will ignite diesel fuel and engine oil and that diesel fires can be hot enough to melt aluminium.

"There are a number of cases where oil supply to the turbo-charger bearings has in some way failed and that causes fires in its own right," Lambert says.

"That’s another part of the equation."

Lambert points out that there have been at least nine truck fires in Australia since May where there was a potential for damage to tanks.

The Truck Industry Council (TIC) believes it is "very premature" to come to conclusions on fuel-tank safety given the Penshurst accident occurred only days ago, investigations were continuing and there was likely to.

TIC Chief Technical Officer Simon Humphries says it would await the outcome of any coroner’s inquiry but that it would "certainly consider any recommendations" that might result.

The Australian design rule for fuel tanks, ADR 17, was struck out in 2005.

The Federal transport department document that relates this states:

"This determination repeals the Vehicle Standard known as ADR 17/00 Fuel System. The attached RIS notes that the ADR was introduced at a time when significant numbers of heavy commercial vehicles used petrol for fuel whereas the current practice to use diesel.

"The RIS also points out that there is no comparable international regulation adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and while the United States of America (USA) has a similar standard, other countries including the European Union (EU) do not.

"This casts considerable doubt over whether fuel system regulation along the lines of ADR 17 is warranted.

"Furthermore, it is not evident from the road safety statistics that the ADR contributes to reducing the risk of fire in the event of an accident."

The regulatory impact statement (RIS) on the repeal used statistics for 1992-1999. These showed deaths involving fire rose from four to 16 in that time for vehicles above 20 tonnes.

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