When loading and unloading flammable or combustible cargo, safety precautions are a must. Static electricity presents a serious fire or explosion risk if not adequately accounted for. Continue reading this article to learn more about fuel truck grounding systems and why grounding a vehicle is essential for the safety of your drivers, fleet, and loading and unloading sites.
Tank trucks carrying chemicals, powders, fuel, and combustible materials generate static electricity. If unattended, the electrical charge accumulates and can discharge electrostatic sparks that can instantly ignite. A fuel truck grounding system is essential in preventing catastrophic explosions and fires.
When air flows over materials or liquids flow through piping systems while being loaded or unloaded, it causes a charge to build. Connecting a truck to the ground via copper or steel wire connected to an electrode in the ground is known as electrostatic grounding. Grounding vehicles, also known as earthing, discharge the built-up voltage.
If you’re wondering why fuel truck grounding systems are connected to the earth, the answer is straightforward—the earth is so vast that it readily absorbs and neutralizes any electric or static charge.
Tank trucks have several moving and nonmoving parts, many of which are metal. To discharge static electricity, each of these parts must be connected or bonded, as it is commonly referred to. This enables electricity to freely maneuver through each object until it reaches the grounding point. If not correctly bonded, unconnected parts could discharge to one another. Think of this transfer process as the shock created when reaching for a door handle after walking across the carpet in your socks.
Though the discomfort you feel in your finger or hand isn’t pleasant, it’s far less problematic than a truck becoming engulfed in flames because a tank wasn’t properly grounded and bonded.
In some circumstances, an earth wire and clamp are all that’s necessary to make an earth connection. When grounding vehicles used for industrial purposes or in areas with the hazard of explosive atmospheres due to the presence of flammable gasses or combustible dust, more stringent requirements must be met.
In this circumstance, there are steps to follow to ensure you’re correctly grounding a car or truck:
- Your fuel truck grounding system must be ATEX certified.
- Based on capacity measurements, the earthing unit determines whether the connection is best suited for the earthing point of the truck or on a different metal element.
- Once the driver determines the correct connection point for the earthing clamp, they can safely make the connection.
- The resistance is monitored to make sure it remains sufficiently low while the clamp is affixed to the truck’s earthing point. A detection system immediately alerts the driver if a bad connection or cable break is present between the earthing unit and clamp. A straightforward and easy-to-understand light system alerts the driver to a proper connection.
The National Fire Protection Association and American Petroleum Institute have electrostatic grounding recommendations for vacuum truck operators transferring flammables and combustibles. Their recommendations state drivers must fully ground their truck before performing any other action in the transfer process.
When grounding a vehicle, there are three vital functions that you must perform before the operations for loading and unloading:
- You must verify that your grounding clamp is securely connected to the ground.
- You must verify the loadout pipe is bonded with the ground.
- You must connect the grounding clamp to the body of the tank truck.
Effectively grounding a vehicle requires an up-to-date fuel truck grounding system. Though there are many to choose from, systems should include some essential components. One such component is an explosion-proof control enclosure with a static-safe ground monitoring interface module.
Another is a ground connection junction box with a quick-release connector and clamp stowage point. A durable stainless steel universal grounding clamp with quick connectors and an extendable cable are also must-haves for grounding vehicles. Other static grounding components include:
- Ground straps
- Ground wire
- Ground cable
- Grounding clamps
Testing for cargo tanks that transport hazardous materials is required, but it is not required for the actual fuel truck grounding system. During an annual or five-year inspection, you should request that trained and certified professionals thoroughly check your electrical and fuel truck grounding systems.
Between inspection intervals, you can also monitor your system during stops or before loading or unloading. Furthermore, some insurance providers mandate a third-party shop or mechanic to inspect electrostatic grounding equipment. If the fuel truck grounding system is connected to an ATEX zone, it is subject to the inspection requirements of the ATEX equipment.
Routine preventative maintenance helps prevent problem-causing issues from affecting your ability to ground vehicles in your fleet. Have an experienced technician look over your fuel truck grounding system and make any minor fixes or perform other needed services. Doing so helps ensure minor issues don’t become costly replacements, repairs, or downtime.
For nearly 40 years, White Tank has been Missouri, Kansas, and southern Illinois’ top choice for truckers, fleet managers, and owner-operators. We are a full-service tank truck services provider that can handle anything from electric blower packages to fuel truck grounding systems.
We maintain a large inventory of electrostatic grounding products to minimize repair and replacement times. Reach out to White Tank & Truck Repair today to ask questions, schedule a service appointment, or order parts.