How can you help keep death of the roads?  By not overfilling with derv, by making fuel-cap security part of your daily check or by encouraging your boss to fit an anti-siphon/anti-spill device to your truck’s tank.  Chris Turner reports

A similar scene may well be familiar to most of you.  Clad in black leather – if he or she is sensible, that is – a figure is suddenly rolling over in the middle of the road, seemingly without rhyme or reason, his or her motorcycle on its side grinding to a halt some distance away, wheels spinning.  How on earth did that happen, you ask yourself… and then it dawns on you that the unfortunate victim has probably hit a patch of diesel fuel.

As a motorcyclist of some 30 years, it’s happened to me.  In my case, I found myself on the deck, suddenly and without warning, in the middle of a multi-lane gyratory road system on the Old Kent Road, smack-bang in the heart of London’s morning rush-hour.

I was fortunate, a) because I suffered only a bruised knee (and just a little loss of dignity) in the fall; b) because none of the apparently unconcerned legions of the capital’s car drivers steaming past me managed to hit me; c) because I was helped, both the heavily limping me and my motorcycle, to the side of the road by, yes, you guessed, a fellow biker.  He selflessly helped me recover from the shock and got me back on two wheels to complete my daily commute.  Thanks again, whoever that saintly man in black was.


That was a couple of decades ago but, and this is the amazing bit, it’s still happening – and many aren’t so lucky, either, Department for Transport statistics stating that diesel spills were the cause of 16 deaths and 3000 serious accidents between 2000 and 2004. 

Diesel deposited on the road is as slippery as black ice, and motorcyclists are all too aware of the danger it represents.  Spills are found at bends, junctions, roundabouts and corners; in fact, anywhere where heavy braking can cause fuel to slosh around in the tank.  Spilt derv also acts like a solvent, damaging the road surface; the tar is melted, the chippings are loosened, and the continuous passage of traffic creates an often lethal pot-hole.

Some major hauliers are aware of the dangers, however, Sainsbury’s, for example, has won the 2007 Kill Spills award, promoted by the British Motorcycle Federation (BMF), for its proactive role in tackling diesel spills.  Sainsbury’s truck fleet is fitted with anti-siphon devices that help prevent spills, supported by the company’s driver-training manual instructing drivers to fill only to the first click on the filler nozzle.  The supermarket giant is also using Kill Spills warning posters and leaflets in its depots to raise awareness of the dangers of diesel spills, especially to motorcyclists.

‘Diesel spilt on our roads via overfull fuel tanks, poorly fitted filler caps or no cap at all is a menace to those on two wheels’ said a BMF spokesman.  ‘Difficult to see until too late, spilt diesel on road surfaces can be a lethal combination’, he adds, especially when encountered on a bend or at a roundabout’.


Still not convinced?  If you’re caught spilling diesel you face a fine of £5000 or six points on your licence, plus the bill for cleaning up the spill.  You can also be prosecuted for driving with an unsecured load.

There is a T&D/TISS special offer – get a 10% discount on the TISS Impregnable anti-spill/anti-theft device, which can save lives and save money by preventing fuel theft.  More on our campaign in future issues of T&D.


(Published in Truck & Driver, November 2007)

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