Department says no to fuel tank design rule resurrection


The Department of Infrastructure and Transport is unconvinced that Australian Design Rules should be reapplied to heavy vehicle fuel tanks. <br /><br /> The rule relating to fuel tanks, ADR 17, was repealed in 2005 and not replaced. Road safety expert John Lambert has called for a rethink on fuel tank safety following last week’s Penshurst crash in which a truck driver was incinerated and a UK motorway conflagration involving trucks and has pointed to at least nine reported truck accidents since May where he believes the modern tanks were at risk from heat.

By Rob McKay | November 18, 2011

The Department of Infrastructure and Transport is unconvinced that Australian Design Rules should be reapplied to heavy vehicle fuel tanks.

The rule relating to fuel tanks, ADR 17, was repealed in 2005 and not replaced.

Road safety expert John Lambert has called for a rethink on fuel tank safety following last week’s Penshurst crash in which a truck driver was incinerated and a UK motorway conflagration involving trucks and has points to at least nine reported truck accidents since May where he believes the modern tanks were at risk from heat.

Lambert advocates fuel tanks be made of steel rather than aluminium, though he did not address ADR 17 specifically.

Asked whether,
in the light of continuing truck fires, it was premature to ditch ADR 17,
the Department replies: "The Australian Government was justified in repealing ADR 17, a decision which was made in consultation with states and territories.

"There is no compelling evidence at this stage that the Government should consider re-regulating this aspect.

"However, the Department will continue to monitor the situation, including the outcome of any related crash investigations."

Of the truck accidents mentioned, "none contain scenarios likely to be avoided through a standard such as ADR 17".

"The bulk were either the loads catching fire, other engine or fuel system failures not related to the fuel tank, or fires following extreme events such as rollovers or multiple pile ups, where the effectiveness of this type of standard would be questionable," the department says.

The 2005 review of ADR 17, which set requirements to minimise the risk of fire during the filling of a fuel tank on a heavy vehicle, or as a result of an impact with a side mounted fuel tank on a heavy vehicle,
found that:

  • most fire-affected fatalities were as a result of frontal impacts, for which the standard offered no particular protection
  • since the ADR had first been introduced, the overwhelming majority of heavy vehicles had changed from using petrol to using diesel, which is a much less volatile fuel
  • while difficult to quantify, the likely benefits of retaining the standard would be minimal
  • there was no equivalent international regulation in place
  • legal liability and consumer protection issues place greater responsibility on manufacturers to provide a safe product than when the standard was first introduced in 1975.

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