Auto and Road User Journal
December 17, 1997
(U.S. and Canada)
Fax: (360) 335-6402
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today urged motorists to avoid risk of fire by placing portable gasoline containers on the ground while filling them because filling them while they are located in beds of pickup trucks or in trunks or passenger car compartments can be hazardous.
Take the portable gas container out of your vehicle and set it on the ground while filling it with gas. Static electricity could cause fire to erupt while fueling when it is in your car or pickup bed, NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D., said. Adding to the danger is the location where these fires could occur -- at a gas station while getting fuel for your snow blower or emergency generator. Cold, dry days in winter increase the chance of ignition, so preventive measures are important.
Dr. Martinez told owners who have bedliners in their pickups to be especially careful. A bedliner is a plastic, protective lining that fits inside pickup beds to protect the vehicle s surface from wear and tear.
He explained that the bedliner acts as an insulator, allowing static electricity to build up on the gasoline container while it is being filled. The flow of gasoline through the pump nozzle can produce static electricity. During fueling, this can create a spark between the container and the fuel nozzle, igniting gasoline vapors and causing a fire or explosion. This danger also applies to nonmetallic containers capable of building up a static charge.
According to NHTSA, there have been 24 fires and 5 injuries associated with static electricity discharge from portable fuel containers, some of which included serious injuries and extensive property damage. Most of the fires involved pickup trucks that had plastic bedliners. Reports also describe fires that resulted while portable gasoline containers were being filled in trunks and passenger compartments of vehicles, when carpeting acted as an insulator.
NHTSA recommends the following safe procedures for filling portable gasoline containers: