One of our insurer partners, QBE, has issued guidance around safety concerns with a number of Ford Transit models.
The purpose of this guidance is to raise awareness for employers and employees of the safety concerns and risk of cab fires occurring on Ford Transit vans (known models to date include Mk6, 7 and 8 versions, witin a date range from 2010 to present date). QBE has not seen any reported issues with 2020 Mk9 models.
The main vehicle battery is housed under the driver's seat in a plastic casing with a plastic lid, over this is a metal clamp to secure all. Depending on model type, standard vehicles will have just the one main battery, whereas higher spec vehicles carrying out heavy work require extra battery capacity for either tail lifts or winches and hydraulics etc, these will have two batteries.
The driver’s seat has to be removed to change the battery. It would appear that after completion of maintenance work on the battery, the casing is not always replaced. We are aware of a number of recent incidents where the user of the vehicle has placed a spray canister behind their seat (normally for road marking purposes), the canister has touched the battery, created an arc and then exploded. This arc could happen with any metal item which may come into contact with the battery terminals, so it’s important that this issue is discussed with drivers/workers to raise awareness and prevent the risk of this happening.
In most of these recent cases the vehicles were either unoccupied or stationary, and luckily injury was avoided, however during the most recent incident the spray canister exploded whilst the driver and passenger were travelling at 40 mph. They described hearing a loud bang and were instantly engulfed in flames, whilst trying to safely bring the vehicle to a stop and avoid colliding with oncoming traffic. They both suffered severe burns.
On completion of forensic tests, it was discovered that the road marking canisters contain butane, so you see how important it is that these can do not come into contact with the battery.
Each of these incidents have been forensically examined and the main causes are:
> At some point, all the vehicles in question had maintenance work or the fitting of aftermarket equipment, either by the customer or a third party that required the removal or work on the vehicle’s battery these being located under the driver’s seat. Forensic examination highlights the recurring problem persists where the battery isn’t refitted correctly with all terminal covers being left off, exposing the positive and negative terminals of the battery.
> The exposure of the battery terminals on their own doesn’t create the problem, the issue is compounded however when vehicle users store items behind the driver’s seat – in the recent examples, the offending objects being large line marking aerosol cans..
> It is important to note that this is not a design fault. If the vehicle battery and cover are refitted as the vehicle manufacturer intended, then there should be no issues. Drivers/workers need to be informed to help prevent this problem in the future..
We would like to raise awareness of this safety concern, which could be a threat to life. Please ensure you review your operating procedures and policies and inform employees who drive company vehicles, to ensure suitable risk controls are in place to prevent dangerous incidents of this nature happening in the future.