Friday, March 13, 2015

For Some Road Haulage Freight Drivers an Essential Part of Their Truck Can Pose a Threat to Life

Using Cheap and Readily Available A/C Gas Can Harm the Environment, the Vehicle and Even the Driver
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – WORLDWIDE – One part of any automobile, whether it be a saloon car or a big rig with a semi-trailer, which matters vastly differently from country to country, is an efficient air conditioning system. If you are driving a truck across the icy wastes of Alaska you may wish to stop reading now. If however your daily task is in the road haulage game and you pull freight even in what is normally considered a temperate zone, such as the UK, you may be interested in the latest warning from the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

Obviously to a long distance HGV driver in Australia, or any country where temperatures often rise to similar levels, a properly functioning A/C unit is an essential rather than a luxury. A hot, overworked driver loses concentration more quickly compared to one employed in a reasonable, ambient atmosphere. The problem is of course that ‘re-gassing’ an A/C unit can be an expensive business, needing the care of a qualified professional and, most importantly, using the right gas for the vehicles system.

The ATA refers to advice from its own Industry Technical Council commenting on the risks associated with the use of cheap, alternative hydrocarbon-based refrigerant gases. To understand the complexities of working safely with A/C units a quick glance at any online resource, such as this RX7 blog, will illustrate just what a minefield the new array of gases available can present to an owner, or particularly to a service garage which may not have the depth of knowledge necessary to undertake replenishment safely.

What is clear is that the use of hydrocarbon based refrigerants can result, not only in mechanical breakdown, but pose a real risk to both environment and personal health and safety. ATA Senior Adviser, Engineering, Chris Loose explains the dangers, saying:

“Vehicle air-conditioning and refrigeration systems are designed to use specialised automotive refrigerant gases. These manufacturer-endorsed products have a low fire risk, and newer products have been formulated to have a reduced environmental footprint. However, some after-market repairers will ‘re-gas’ refrigeration systems using cheaper, hydrocarbon-based refrigerant gases, often sold as M30.

“These hydrocarbon gases are highly flammable, and pose a significant safety risk in these systems. In one case, an Australian heavy vehicle driver suffered burns after the re-gassed air-conditioning system in his truck ignited. To our knowledge, no heavy vehicle in Australia has ever been designed to use these gases. Vehicle owners using these repairers may not even be informed that their system is being re-gassed using M30 rather than the recommended refrigerants.

“No matter the cost saving, these gases are not worth the risk. We recommend that operators exercise caution with cut-price re-gassing services, and ensure that all air-conditioning and refrigeration systems in their fleet use the manufacturer’s recommended refrigerant gas product.”