Cargo Ignited on Truck Bed During Transportation

What happened?

There was a fire in the cargo on the back of a truck whilst moving materials from the warehouse to the vessel. Whilst in transit, the driver observed flames coming from the truck bed.  He stopped the vehicle and used the vehicle fire extinguisher to tackle the fire. He was successful, despite very strong winds, and then returned to the  warehouse safely. No injuries to personnel, no damage to truck.

What were the causes? What went wrong?

Investigation did not reveal the exact source of ignition. There were nevertheless a number of concerns identified after interviews and review of CCTV video records:

  • The transported cargo appeared to have not been secured or belted in the truck bed;
  • Bottles of hand sanitizer, known to be a petroleum-based flammable material, formed part of the load. Prior to loading, there was no check made of the integrity of the bottles of hand sanitizer to see if there are any damage, leakage or container lids not properly closed. [NB this incident occurred in a hot country];
  • There was no segregation nor proper packaging of transported materials. Spirit containing sanitizers were stored next to lead-acid batteries and other equipment with metal elements (chairs and spare parts etc.) It was considered that loose metal parts could have potentially damaged the bottles of hand sanitizer, causing leakage of flammable material, or, interact with batteries causing sparks.

Actions

  • All transported loads should be packed & secured properly;
  • The integrity of the load should be checked to ensure no damage, leakage or container lids not properly closed;
  • Any internal and external potential for fire or sparks should be evaluated and eliminated before the journey.