Airport Fuel Truck Safety Beefed Up

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.