Industry News

Road tanker detonation under investigation

When a road tanker carrying 34 tonnes of ammonium nitrate emulsion in Western Australia exploded the debris was found almost a kilometre from the blast site.

On October 24, a road train driver noticed a tyre fire on his rear trailer en route to the Gruyere gold mine while traversing unsealed roads according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The driver unhitched the trailer after attempting to extinguish it. The blaze grew and eventually caused an explosion along the Great Central Highway in the shire of Laverton.

Investigators from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) confirmed spot fires in the surrounding area, trees snapped at their bases from 40 metres of the site as well as torn tree limbs from up to 150 metres away.

Cam Dumesny, the CEO of Western Roads Federation, told ABC these cases of exploding trucks are as rare as rocking horse manure.

“They’re just phenomenally rare in Australia,” he said. “We’ve got such high safety regulations around carrying dangerous goods in the country.”

A DMIRS spokesperson told the ABC the vehicle was licensed under the Dangerous Goods Safety Regulations 2007 Act and the driver was authorised to haul dangerous goods.

The investigation of this incident is ongoing. A final report is yet to be released.

ARTSA Institute, in partnership with the National Bulk Tanker Association and Truck Industry Council has developed guidance on reducing the risk of heavy vehicle fires which was funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative.

It includes four manuals (fire risk guide, drivers guide, maintenance guide and fire investigation guide) and several videos.

National Transport Insurance published a report in 2020 that found more than 10 per cent of major losses were due to fire, 32 per cent of fires were in the engine bay and truck cabin area, 55 per cent of engine bay and truck cabin fires were due to electrical failure and the balance of failures were mainly due to wheel and tyre issues.

In 2020, it took a disastrous ammonium nitrate detonation in Beirut, Lebanon, to remind the world of the importance of handling and storing dangerous goods.

In other news, last month, the safe storage of ammonium nitrate was under review via a safety measure review facilitated by SafeWork NSW.


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