Hart defines growing major truck fire risks

ARTSA chairman also slams industry's maintenance shortcomings after disappointing blitz outcome

Hart defines growing major truck fire risks
Hart defines growing major truck fire risks
By Rob McKay | May 30, 2013

Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA)
Chairman Dr Peter Hart has slammed the industry’s maintenance performance during a presentation on the causes of truck fires.

Addressing the topic of emerging safety issues at this week’s Victorian Transport Association (VTA)
State Conference, Hart was moved to comment on the level of serious defects on trucks as reflected in the preliminary findings of Victoria’s Operation Trishula.

He described this as "completely intolerable" situation where there had been "absolutely no progress" in the past 10 years.

Having visited Auckland this month, he noted that New Zealand had a five-star system that was something "worth looking at".

In analysing National Transport Insurance (NTI) figures, Hart states that by far the greatest cause of the increasing incidence of major-claim truck fires was short circuits in main cables, at 30 percent.

A contributing factor for this was due the lack of circuit-breaker protection.

"Nobody puts a circuit breaker on a starter-motor cable, some put a circuit breaker to an alternator cable and some to the main cab cable," Hart says.

"If you haven’t got a circuit breaker on those latter cables, you’d better go and check your truck."

The next greatest incidence, at 15 percent, was due to hose failures leading to fuel or oil on the exhaust pipe or turbo-charger. This was mostly due to hoses being too close to those areas hot enough the ignite diesel or oil or being likely to direct spray towards them when burst.

Beyond those two issues are several totalling 10 percent each.

Wheel-bearing failures, predominantly on trailers, was a maintenance issue and came about due to poor lubrication.

Dragging brakes, a failing prevalent in the Northern Territory with the greater use of road trains, was mostly down to carbon in the air system or worn out compressor. The park brake circuit doesn’t have enough pressure and the brake doesn’t fully release, or the park brake valve is inhibited by carbon. The brake drum then heats up and the resultant grease fire ignites tyres.

Also at 10 percent was turbo-charger failure, due usually to age. Here, worn bearings run off centre leading to a mechanical failure allowing oil to be sprayed into the mechanism through the air intake.

At 5 percent each were tyre rubs due to low air pressure and electric loom failures allowing short circuiting to occur and which could see fire flare up in the truck some time after a period of use.

Hart advises fire extinguishers be carried at all times in trucks.

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