Fuelling the fire

Fuelling the fire

The transportation of fuel is a sensitive topic to which we must pay close attention

The recent fuel tanker accident in Pakistan that claimed the lives of 200 people – due to the ignorance of local people who rushed to the accident scene to steal fuel – has highlighted the need to educate South Aficans about the dangers of approaching a fuel tanker that has been involved in an accident.  

In South Africa most people are ignorant of the danger surrounding the transportation of fuel and the risk of starting a fire, which can lead to a massive explosion and the loss of many lives.

In my opinion, we need to intensify and expand our road-safety campaigns to include and illustrate the dangers of approaching fuel tankers that have been involved in an incident. The campaign should also include the danger of lighting a cigarette, or using a cellphone, anywhere near fuel-delivery vehicles and on the forecourt of filling stations.    

The importance of immediately calling the telephone number of the emergency team should be stressed. The contact number is clearly displayed on the tanker and should be well displayed at all filling stations.

In addition to increasing the awareness of the dangers involved in the transportation of fuel, questions need to be asked regarding the training and education of the operators and drivers.

Are all fuel-tanker drivers, and the emergency people who arrive first on the scene, sufficiently trained on how to secure the area and control crowds of onlookers and people who intend to steal fuel?

Are all dangerous-goods drivers given sufficient training to fully understand the mechanics of the vehicle and to spot any tell-tale signs that could make the vehicle unsafe or cause a fire?      

Fuel companies in South Africa are very safety conscious and abide by all the safety regulations, but are all the subcontractors and vehicles transporting fuel to and from our neighbouring states adhering to all the safety standards?

Are all drivers of these dangerous-goods vehicles carrying out their pre-trip inspections in a professional manner, and are the owners taking action to immediately rectify any problem that is highlighted in the daily trip reports?

While working closely with the transport engineers from the major fuel companies in South Africa, and taking part in the investigations after fuel tanker accidents, I have found that the majority of incidents were a result of human error or mechanical failure.    

Fuel tankers have to be built by specialised body builders who adhere to strict quality standards and understand the risks involved in the transportation of fuel, but are all vehicles transporting fuel today in South Africa and neighbouring countries built in compliance with the required quality standards?

Fuel tankers should be audited every six months by a competent team to ensure that the vehicle and tank are in good working order and that none of the components on the vehicle are worn or faulty.

During the audit, special attention should be given to any component that may cause a fire. The safety of the electrical wiring on the vehicle is extremely important, as any electrical short or problem could create a spark. Brakes, wheel bearings and tyres need to be regularly inspected to ensure that they are in good condition and replaced if faulty or worn.


One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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