Dutch tanker airbag said to improve stability and fuel-economy for part-full loads14 December 2017

A system to secure liquid loads in road-going tankers using inflatable bladders reduces fuel consumption and improves vehicle security, according to inventor Erik Eenkhoorn, who recently completed an engineering PhD thesis about it at the University of Twente.

Although liquids in relatively small containers are subject to load securement requirements to prevent them shifting during transport, the same does not apply to bulk transport.

He points out: “There is currently no way to secure a load of, for example, 20,000 litres of oil in a 40,000-litre tank. The result is that the liquid load sloshes around, which causes hazardous situations.”

While spirit tankers and other vessels carrying dangerous liquids are required in the Netherlands at least to be fitted with perforated baffles, these are not accident-proof, he argues.

Although the baffles retard the forward movement of liquid when braking, Eenkhoorn’s research found that they don’t provide lateral stability, so there is still a major risk of the truck tipping over when cornering at speed, or in an emergency.

He says: “The research demonstrates that the dynamic behaviour of every liquid in a tanker truck causes hazardous situations if the load is not secured properly.”

Eenkhoorn, who owns R&D company Accede that is commercialising the product he has developed as an alternative to the baffles. Cairbag is an inflatable airbag made of rubber or thermoplastic polyurethane that is placed inside the tank. The shape-retaining bag fills the empty space in the tank and absorbs the pressure of the bulk liquid, so that the load can no longer slosh around during transport.

This also has an additional advantage, claims Eenkhoorn: a fuel saving of 5-6%.

The company has performed on-road trials of the system with a specialist cleaning company.

Will Dalrymple

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