At a time of record passenger growth at Richmond International Airport
(Virginia), with hundreds of vehicles a day servicing over a hundred departing
planes, management has become increasingly sensitive to the problem of ramp
accidents, especially at airports.
Those involving fuel-trucks have the greatest potential for catastrophe.
In one 2006 accident, a truck with 2,900 gallons of jet fuel rolled into the
back of a twin-engine Continental Express jet with 44 passengers emplaned. Later
that year, a truck carrying 4000 gallons of jet fuel had struck a United Express
In the first accident, it turned out the driver had fallen asleep at the
wheel after working a graveyard shift for another employer. In mid-December, a
new set of safety and training rules was approved by the Capital Region Airport
Commission and imposed upon the airport's major fueling operations, Million Air
Richmond and Aero Industries. They authorized the board to ban an operator for
up to a year in the event of a serious airport accident. The previous rules
lacked any significant bite.
The new rules apply to anyone who does business around aircraft,
including construction companies and restaurant suppliers. Although the
deterrent effect is now there, there have still been three minor infractions, so
the jury's still out on whether it's been a good solution.
Aero Industries received a verbal caution Jan. 2 when a fuel-truck driver
overrode the dead man's switch meant to stop equipment if an operator is
incapacitated. Another warning was issued to Aero Industries on Feb. 14, when a
driver failed to report striking an access card reader. Violations of the new
rules can also lead to misdemeanor charges for individuals, punishable by jail
terms of up to a year and fines as high as $2,500.