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A Reason for Hazmat Rules

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Winston

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The rules are apparently inadequate for bulk airbag unit transport or they simply weren't followed in this case.

August 29, 2016

The truck was pulling a flatbed trailer stacked with airbag cartridges and was headed to a Takata plant in Eagle Pass, Texas on August 22nd when it exploded in the town of Del Rio, Conexion Del Rio reports. According to authorities, the truck drove off the road, caught fire, and exploded right in front of the house of 69-year-old Lucila Robles, killing her. It reportedly took the Laredo, Texas medical examiner two days to identify Robles based on her dental records.

The driver of the truck, Mario Alberto Rodriguez, 20, was injured in the crash, but was able to move away from the truck before the explosion. A couple passing by the wrecked truck in an SUV was also injured when the blast occurred.

Ten homes in close proximity to the explosion had their windows broken and doors knocked off their hinges from the force of the detonation. In a sign of just how large the blast was, truck parts and other debris were found scattered nearly a mile away from where the truck exploded. Neither the cause of crash nor the official cause of the explosion have yet been released.

Following the incident, Takata released the following statement to Jalopnik:

“A truck carrying airbag inflators and propellant that was being operated by a subcontractor to Takata was involved in an accident. According to preliminary reports, the accident caused a fire, which led to an explosion. Takata immediately deployed personnel to the site and has been working closely with the subcontractor and the appropriate authorities to investigate this incident. Takata has strict safety procedures relating to the transportation of its products that meet or exceed all regulatory requirements. Our thoughts are with the family of the woman who died as a result of this accident, and with the four people injured, who were immediately transported to San Antonio for medical treatment.”

Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that fills air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to prolonged heat and humidity and burn too fast. That can blow apart a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 11 people, and probably 14, have died worldwide due to Takata inflator explosions. The deaths have occurred in the United States and Malaysia, where three remain under investigation.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbag#Inflation

Although propellants containing the highly toxic sodium azide (NaN3) were common in early inflator designs, little to no toxic sodium azide has been found on used airbags. The azide-containing pyrotechnic gas generators contain a substantial amount of the propellant. The driver-side airbag would contain a canister containing about 50 grams of sodium azide. The passenger side container holds about 200 grams (!!!! - W) of sodium azide.

The alternative propellants may incorporate, for example, a combination of nitroguanidine, phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) or other nonmetallic oxidizer, and a nitrogen-rich fuel different from azide (e.g. tetrazoles, triazoles, and their salts). The burn rate modifiers in the mixture may be an alkaline metal nitrate (NO3-) or nitrite (NO2-), dicyanamide or its salts, sodium borohydride (NaBH4), etc.




 

Cl(VII)

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I find it amazing that there would be that much sodium azide. Assuming perfect consumption as the article suggests there would be about 22 L of gas generated for every 65 g of sodium azide.

Also, as someone who regularly gets genuinely scary things delivered by UPS and contract shipping companies the transport rules do not make me feel particularly safe on the road. Honestly, I'm surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often, but I guess everyone else's shipments don't explode if exposed to air.
 

Rob702Martinez

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WOW.... that is terrible news!! And well wishes to those injured.

How many times have you driven by a burning Semi or Car? Several times.
 

rharshberger

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While it is terrible news, the press seems to be pointing fingers at Takata for sensational purposes. The fact that the truck, left the road and crashed before the explosion is being downplayed. Airbag inflators are indeed a very hazardous material to move, but if a crash and fire are involved its not surprising they exploded.
 

Mushtang

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While it is terrible news, the press seems to be pointing fingers at Takata for sensational purposes. The fact that the truck, left the road and crashed before the explosion is being downplayed. Airbag inflators are indeed a very hazardous material to move, but if a crash and fire are involved its not surprising they exploded.
"You don't dress for the ride, you dress for the slide." That's what bikers say about wearing leather coats and pants on warm days when jeans and a tshirt would be MUCH more comfortable.

Takata should have transported the material in a way that wouldn't explode and kill people if the truck crashed. Trucks crash, and it can't be completely avoided. Carrying less per load, or packing them differently, would be much more expensive but much safer when there is an accident.
 

Winston

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Takata should have transported the material in a way that wouldn't explode and kill people if the truck crashed. Trucks crash, and it can't be completely avoided. Carrying less per load, or packing them differently, would be much more expensive but much safer when there is an accident.
Exactly the point I would have made if you hadn't beat me to it. Certain commercial fireworks such as those containing flash powder (salutes) are required to be packed in a way to prevent sympathetic detonation, IIRC. That MIGHT have been possible in this case. I suspect that since these bags were on their way to the company's factory that they may have been a number units removed because of the recall in which case they may have been even more sensitive to initiation than new units, with the too-fast burn rate of older units having led to the recall in the first place.

In any case, nothing in comparison to the event in the "Regulations? Regulations?! We don't abide by no stinkin' regulations!" country:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Tianjin_explosions

At least 700 tonnes of highly toxic sodium cyanide was stored at the site – 70 times the legal limit. In addition to vast quantities of sodium cyanide and calcium carbide, paperwork was discovered showing that 800 tonnes of ammonium nitrate and 500 tonnes of potassium nitrate were at the blast site. On 17 August, the deputy director of the public security bureau's fire department told CCTV:

Over 40 kinds of hazardous chemicals [were stored on site]. As far as we know, there were ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate. According to what we know so far, all together there should have been around 3,000 tonnes.


All of that set off by a fire in tons of nitrocellulose that was allowed to dry out! EDIT: forgot to mention that calcium carbide emits highly explosive acetylene gas when exposed to water... such as from a fireman's hose.

The pile in the middle right is composed of shipping containers; far in the background are the burned out hulls of thousands of new cars:

 
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75Grandville

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Wow! My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved!

What caught my attention was the fact that the truck was carrying propellant, as well as airbag inflators. It appears that the propellant is what exploded, rather than the inflators. The inflators, even if they all detonated, are all designed to contain the force of the propellant, and it has not been long enough for any of them to experience the degradation that has led to the recalls in the field.


Think of a truck carrying bulk black powder, smokeless propellant, or something similar. Then that truck leaves the road, catches fire, and explodes. That appears to be what happened in this case.



Full disclosure: I work for an airbag manufacturer (not Takata). Any views, opinions, etc expressed are solely mine, not those of my employer.
 
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rharshberger

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As someone who hauls Hazardous materials everyday I am seeing the following issues with the article.

First of all the age of the truck driver that is listed, 20 years old, Federal Law requires a minimum age of 21.

Second Takata is a manufacturer not a commercial carrier, their fault in this accident only occurs if: A) The materials were improperly package, and or B) The shipping papers falsified/improperly reported. Hazardous material shipping regulations for Hazard Class 1.4G explosives are specific about the requirements for packaging, quantities, and what chemicals they may be shipped with and the requirements for seperation and segregation.

Hazardous material packaging is designed to protect the product as much as REASONABLY possible in the event of an accident, fires however are not a reasonable expectation to protect against. The packaging DID protect against the crash that caused the fire.

The type of truck was stated as a flatbed however the picture of the trailer remains is quite obviously a standard box/dry van style semi trailer.

I can guarantee that FMCSA (Federal DOT) will be investigating this and odds are the Carrier aka trucking company will be found at fault, as once the load leaves the manufacturers location it is the respondsibility of the driver.

We will most likely not read or hear the presses follow on report unless Takata is found guilty of one of the offenses I listed above, which based on my professional experience the fault lies with the driver and the cause of the crash. My professional background is over 20 years hauling hazardous materials in the LTL Freight and Tanker fields, as an instructor of Load Securement in a highly regarded Dept of Energy training facility. I also receive yearly training in Hazardous materials handling and regulations, including HRCQ training for radioactive and other materials that require specific safegaurds to protect the general public.
 

Winston

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The type of truck was stated as a flatbed however the picture of the trailer remains is quite obviously a standard box/dry van style semi trailer.
To a journalism major, I suspect a box trailer which no longer has its box is a "flatbed." :)
 

Winston

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BTW, I've had a club member mention the use of deployed junkyard car airbag material as chute protectors which made me wonder what junkyards are required to do, if anything, with the ones that didn't deploy in a wrecked vehicle. Not only would they be a potential hazard during any electrical system cannibalization, the bags and/or propellants might be available for stupid or nefarious purposes. I've seen videos of idiots putting them in chairs as pranks, probably resulting in spinal disc injuries which might lead to back problems in the future.
 

rharshberger

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BTW, I've had a club member mention the use of deployed junkyard car airbag material as chute protectors which made me wonder what junkyards are required to do, if anything, with the ones that didn't deploy in a wrecked vehicle. Not only would they be a potential hazard during any electrical system cannibalization, the bags and/or propellants might be available for stupid or nefarious purposes. I've seen videos of idiots putting them in chairs as pranks, probably resulting in spinal disc injuries which might lead to back problems in the future.
I have heard the same thing about using the deployed bags as chute protectors. As for what junk yards do with intact/non-deployed units I have no idea. I know that junkyards typically are required to remove all fluids and batteries from there junk vehicles.
 

bobkrech

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The airbag is a propellant actuated device just like a hobby rocket motor, nothing more or less. For transportation both are considered low explosive devices as are any propellant actuated devices. When initiated in a controlled manner, both devices generate large quantities of gas in a short period of time. In both devices, an orifice is used to control the internal pressure of the propellant actuated device and the mass flow rate from the device.

Propellant actuated devices will explode (cato) if the nozzle gets plugged however it is more likely to happen when the burning area of the propellant within the device is larger than planned. When there is an accident followed by a fire, propellant actuated devices are heated from the outside in rather than from the inside out. The combustion occurs a the casing/propellant interface rather than the bore (for a rocket motor). This causes a much higher combustion pressure and will cause the case to rupture, or cato (explode). That's what happened in this accident.

More likely than not, the diesel fuel ignited during the impact and started a fire that cooked the devices and a cook-off explosive chain occurred. This is why magazine fires are so dangerous in the military.

It really doesn't matter whether the propellant actuated devices were airbags cartridges, rocket motors, solid propellant gas generators or firearms cartridges or bombs or hand grenades. Once you have a fire in the transportation vehicle containing propellant actuated devices, you are likely to have a violent explosion regardless of the composition of the propellant.
 

Winston

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The airbag is a propellant actuated device just like a hobby rocket motor, nothing more or less. For transportation both are considered low explosive devices as are any propellant actuated devices. When initiated in a controlled manner, both devices generate large quantities of gas in a short period of time.
I don't know if sodium azide has some unique characteristics versus other metal azides that make it a low explosive, but I believe the others are all considered to be primary high explosives. Although they apparently don't use sodium azide any more, what they use now as a substitute must be similarly energetic in order to serve the same purpose. What this violent explosion with apparent sympathetic detonations has in a round about way led me to realize is that IF there aren't regulations requiring the proper removal and deactivation of airbags in junked vehicles, there are effectively a bunch of potential electrically initiated explosive devices sitting around in junkyards. As if there weren't enough vulnerabilities already... from just this past June:

[video=youtube;KrRp14h_6uQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrRp14h_6uQ[/video]
 

Johnly

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I thought that the air bag inflation devices had moved away from sodium azide for health and safety reasons several years ago.

John
 

rstaff3

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BTW, I've had a club member mention the use of deployed junkyard car airbag material as chute protectors which made me wonder what junkyards are required to do, if anything, with the ones that didn't deploy in a wrecked vehicle. Not only would they be a potential hazard during any electrical system cannibalization, the bags and/or propellants might be available for stupid or nefarious purposes. I've seen videos of idiots putting them in chairs as pranks, probably resulting in spinal disc injuries which might lead to back problems in the future.
I have used them and IMO they are more robust than commercial ones. Many years ago we had a club member who was licensed to dispose of them. Every now and again before the launch started, he'd line them up on the HPR pads and fire them off. I wish I had grabbed more of them!
 

bobkrech

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I don't know if sodium azide has some unique characteristics versus other metal azides that make it a low explosive, but I believe the others are all considered to be primary high explosives. Although they apparently don't use sodium azide any more, what they use now as a substitute must be similarly energetic in order to serve the same purpose. What this violent explosion with apparent sympathetic detonations has in a round about way led me to realize is that IF there aren't regulations requiring the proper removal and deactivation of airbags in junked vehicles, there are effectively a bunch of potential electrically initiated explosive devices sitting around in junkyards. As if there weren't enough vulnerabilities already... from just this past June:

[video=youtube;KrRp14h_6uQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrRp14h_6uQ[/video]
You are confusing alkali azides with heavy metal azides such as lead, copper and silver azides which are extremely sensitive to shock and friction. Heavy metal azides are used a initiators for high and low explosives and are classified as 1.2/1.2 high explosives.

Sodium azide is classified as a 6.1 Toxic material comparable to sodium cyanide. Alkali azides undergo thermal decomposition into the alkali metal and nitrogen gas when exposed to high temperatures, but are not shock or friction sensitive, and the thermal decomposition temperatures are high, considerably over 250 C so they are not considered explosives by any stretch of the imagination. When you mix an alkali azide with a pyrotechnic heat releasing chemical mixture you make a nitrogen gas generating propellant that is a low explosive 1.3/1.4 material, and that's what's inside the airbag inflator cartridge.

It is most likely that in the accident, the truck's diesel fuel caught fire and that is what set the airbag propellants off. (It's known as thermal cook-off.) There's not too much you can do about that except to insure the truck driver doesn't speed and fail to negotiate a curve.........
 

rharshberger

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For those who are interested the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration has released the findings from the investigation of this accident. The trucking company from LaGrange, GA has been orfered to cease all interstate and intrastate operations after a federal investigation found the company to pose an imminent hazard to public safety, the carrier was served the order on Oct 4, 2016.

This is the same company whos truck exploded killing a Maverick County, TX woman. The investigation found the company to be in violation of multiple federal motor carrier statutes including:

Failing to comply with driver qualification requirements, and within the last two and a half months two drivers were allowed to operate a CMV without a valid CDL. Failing to properly implement random drug and alcohol testing, including an instance where a driver had refused to be tested and was allowed to continue operating a cmv hauling explosive hazmats. During the last 10 vehicle inspections all 5 of the companies cmv's were placed out of service for major safety defects. Failing to monitor its employees hours of service to ensure compliance with HOS regulations. Lack of proper Hazmat specific training and indepth transportation security training. Failing to comply with required information on HazMat shipping papers. Failure to notify the National Responce Center within 12 hours of the crash, failing to have a HazMat security or communication plan in place ( a requirement for a HazMat Safety Permit).

TL; DR Industrial Transit the company that owned and operated the truck is screwed and the owners/management WILL be receiving massive fines and possibly jail time, the drivers if found guilty of negligent driving can and most likely will be found guilty in the death of the Texas woman.

Takata most likely had no knowledge of the issues with the carrier.

http://www.vehicleservicepros.com/n...ompany-to-be-imminent-hazard-to-public-safety
 
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ksaves2

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Now that's what the rules are for. Winning the suit got the ATF off of our backs so more resources are freed up to police the industry that has legitimate uses for "truly need to be regulated" materials. Kurt
 

boatgeek

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For those who are interested the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration has released the findings from the investigation of this accident. The trucking company from LaGrange, GA has been orfered to cease all interstate and intrastate operations after a federal investigation found the company to pose an imminent hazard to public safety, the carrier was served the order on Oct 4, 2016.

This is the same company whos truck exploded killing a Maverick County, TX woman. The investigation found the company to be in violation of multiple federal motor carrier statutes including:

Failing to comply with driver qualification requirements, and within the last two and a half months two drivers were allowed to operate a CMV without a valid CDL. Failing to properly implement random drug and alcohol testing, including an instance where a driver had refused to be tested and was allowed to continue operating a cmv hauling explosive hazmats. During the last 10 vehicle inspections all 5 of the companies cmv's were placed out of service for major safety defects. Failing to monitor its employees hours of service to ensure compliance with HOS regulations. Lack of proper Hazmat specific training and indepth transportation security training. Failing to comply with required information on HazMat shipping papers. Failure to notify the National Responce Center within 12 hours of the crash, failing to have a HazMat security or communication plan in place ( a requirement for a HazMat Safety Permit).

TL; DR Industrial Transit the company that owned and operated the truck is screwed and the owners/management WILL be receiving massive fines and possibly jail time, the drivers if found guilty of negligent driving can and most likely will be found guilty in the death of the Texas woman.

Takata most likely had no knowledge of the issues with the carrier.

http://www.vehicleservicepros.com/n...ompany-to-be-imminent-hazard-to-public-safety
Ouch. About all they're missing is lying to a federal official and obstruction of justice. Their lawyer must have gotten to the company officials to tell the truth to the feds. Or maybe that's coming in a later indictment. Either way, I'm glad they're off the road.
 

rharshberger

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Ouch. About all they're missing is lying to a federal official and obstruction of justice. Their lawyer must have gotten to the company officials to tell the truth to the feds. Or maybe that's coming in a later indictment. Either way, I'm glad they're off the road.
Its definitely a pretty serious bunch of charges, the Feds are also talking civil and possible criminal charges on top of the FMCSA violations.
 
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