If you have been in the construction industry for some time, you have likely heard about some piece of equipment being dropped from a truck. Whether during transport or when being offloaded at a job site, it happens. I have heard of generators falling to the ground while being lifted by cranes, and of trailer-mounted generators coming off their hitch at highway speeds and doing cartwheels on the median. This story has to do with a fuel tank that suffered a fall from a truck. There is no dramatic footage, and the drop was at slow speeds. While stressful to all involved, nobody was injured, which was the most important thing. I am sharing this article because it provided some insight on how a negative situation can bring light to the quality of the products that we promote, and more importantly, how good people can be very instrumental in making a tough situation a little better.
So, here is the story of how this 20,000 gallon Fireguard® fuel tank survived a drop from a moving truck, and how the tank manufacturer worked with the customer to inspect and repair the fuel tank. The journey begins with three identical tanks shipping to Florida, for delivery to a hospital that was undergoing an expansion of their emergency generator system. The three fuel tanks were procured to provide bulk diesel fuel storage for multiple generators serving the emergency power system at the hospital. As sometimes happens, when the tanks were ready to ship, the job site was not ready to accept the installation of the tanks. And so, our customer opted to have the tanks delivered to a storage yard near the job site, which would serve as a temporary home until the site was ready. Once the contractor had poured the pads for the fuel tanks, our customer made arrangements for the tanks to be picked up and transported to their final destination, less than an hour away.
It was in this final voyage, and only a few miles from their permanent home, that one of the tanks somehow broke loose from the transport vehicle. The tank dropped off the side of the transport and, after taking out some portion of the curb and a healthy chunk of dirt and grass from the right-of-way, it made a very impressive skid to a stop.
This incident made for an interesting day for the contractor (and I am sure for the truck driver). How and why the 42,000 lb. tank broke loose and ended up on the side of the road in such a spectacular way remains a bit of a mystery. I am sure the driver knows exactly what happened, but I am not asking for all of the glorious details.
So what now? This fuel tank is not inexpensive. It is a double-wall steel tank, designed to contain any fuel leaks from its primary compartment. It is also a “protected” (UL-2085) tank, incorporating a proprietary material in the interstitial space that meets UL requirements for withstanding ballistic impact, vehicle impact, and a 2-hour exposure to a fire. The tests involved in meeting UL2085 require that the tank retain its integrity after exposure to these hazards. Did any of these features get compromised by the unfortunate drop and impact with the ground? Or did these features actually help the tank survive the event? There was only one way to find out… time to get the tank loaded up and returned to the manufacturer for a detailed inspection.
There was little time to spare as the project needed to have this tank placed in service soon, so the contractor made arrangements to transport the damaged tank back to the manufacturer in North Carolina. Once there, the plant manager and other factory personnel made a thorough inspection of the tank’s interior and exterior. Pressure testing the primary compartment was a key step to evaluate whether the integrity of the tank was compromised. The secondary containment was also inspected for any fractures or damage. After extensive tests, all that was found in need of repair was the front saddle, which had bent backward as the tank made contact with the ground. It turned out the the front saddle took the brunt of the impact, and sacrificed itself while keeping the tank in surprisingly intact form.
Upon receipt of the customer’s approval, the manufacturer quickly proceeded to repair the damaged saddle, and made arrangements to get the tank transported back to the hospital. How much did this all cost? The cost of the repairs were limited to ~10% of the overall tank’s cost, which I think made the overall experience less painful than it could have been.
With the tank now in place at the hospital, I look back at this story and think of the awesome strength of this Fireguard® tank. While there are other “protected” tank designs out there, some of which rely on an outer concrete encasement, this incident made me an even stronger proponent for the strength of steel in the design of secondary-containment tanks.
Hurtado.cc is proud to represent General Industries, the manufacturer and supplier of this tank, and the company responsible for the fast response to our customer after this incident. In a subsequent call with our customer, I was happy to hear that they were very pleased with the way in which General Industries kept them updated on the repair process as they waited for the tank to be returned to the job site. All in all, a good ending to an unfortunate situation!