As reported by KPRC, the fuel tanks of an 18-wheeler caught fire and exploded after the truck overturned on Highway 290 in Northwest Houston early Tuesday morning. The driver of the truck was killed in the fire, but a passenger in the sleeper car was able to escape with minor injuries.
Investigators have not determined the cause of the crash, but witnesses have claimed that a car swerved in front of the truck. However, this crash illustrates the risks of the “side saddle” fuel tanks that are commonly mounted on heavy trucks.
Modern tractor-trailers are incredible machines that allow large amounts of cargo to be transported at high speeds over the road. However, the massive kinetic energy generated by an 80,000 lb. 18-wheeler travelling at 70 miles per hour means that any crash can lead to devastating injuries and loss of life. While it is, of course, important that these accidents be avoided through safe driving, too many truck drivers and passengers who might otherwise have survived a crash die because their trucks are not crashworthy.
The crashworthiness of every component of an 18-wheeler is important, but perhaps none so important as the fuel tanks. Unlike the internal fuel tanks of a passenger car, the side-saddle fuel tanks of an 18-wheeler are exposed to friction and impact with the ground, guardrails, and other vehicles in the event of a collision or rollover. As tragically illustrated by Tuesday morning’s fire on Highway 290, this can lead to disastrous results.