NHVR launches probe after spate of truck fires

By: Rob McKay

Prime mover incidents the focus but other truck sizes also in scope

NHVR launches probe after spate of truck fires
A NSW Police image of a truck fire last year


A spate of truck fires has spurred the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to launch a probe.

Concerns had been raised with the NHVR regarding several fires emanating in the engine bay of prime movers over the past year.

"There have been a number of high-profile incidents recently, including a semi-trailer fire on the Princess Highway, near Wollongong in January," NHVR safety standard and assurance executive director Geoff Casey says.

"Several other incidents have been reported through various sources as well as from Police and state transport agencies.

"Fires are obviously dangerous to heavy vehicle drivers, operators and other motorists, and often lead to major delays on key freight routes.

"While the NHVR has a specific interest in prime mover fires, we are also looking at the issue of truck fires more generally and their increasing prevalence."

As part of the investigation and research, the NHVR has held initial discussions with operators, vehicle and component manufacturers about the current causes of truck fires.

NHVR was also working with police and state agencies to continue to identify common causes of the fires.

"This will enable the NHVR to provide guidance and information to industry as to what measures may best prevent or minimise the likelihood of such incidents," Casey says.

The issue is not new, with organisations highlighting the issue regularly through the decade and pointing to causes.

National Transport Insurance (NTI) raised the profile of truck fires as a major issue in 2013.

Read the NTI’s warning on prevalence of truck fires earlier in the decade, here

Then, NTI national industry relations manager Owen Driscoll nominated "failed wheel bearings, brakes, engine, cabin electrical wiring and trailer refrigeration equipment" as major causes.

Three years earlier, Driscoll nominated maintenance and workshop attention to electrical wiring as crucial for helping ward off the risk.

The New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) were also concerned about maintenance issues following fires in 2014.

As recently as 2016, Dr Peter Hart of investigations firm Hartwood Consulting touched on wheel bearings as a significant risk.

Another industry incident investigator, McKay Forensic Investigations MD Bob McKay, tells ATN there are truck fires can have many causes but a central aspect is the stress on a range of parts and sections due to extremely heavy use.

"There are multiple factors in truck fires but the main overriding factor is, a heavy vehicle is on the road all the time," McKay emphasises.

"And the fact that the vehicle literally never stops moving is a contributing factor."

McKay is in no doubt about the prevalence of the issue in the industry at present, saying his firm had looked into 54 such incidents last year and notched up 10 investigations so far this year. 


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