Airbag prevents tanker trucks from tipping over

November 28, 2017, University of Twente
Credit: University of Twente

Dr Erik Eenkhoorn has designed a system that can secure liquid loads, making the transport of bulk liquids much safer. Inflatable components prevent tanker trucks from tipping over, and reduce fuel consumption, as well. Erik Eenkhoorn recently graduated from the University of Twente with a thesis on this design.

According to the graduate, the existing legislation is part of the reason for countless accidents involving tanker trucks. There are strict rules for securing a solid load, but there are none for the of liquids in tanker trucks. "If you are carrying a load of tins of oil, you have to pack the tins in boxes and tie the load down with tarpaulin and ratchet straps. This prevents the load from shifting during transport. However, 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."

Inadequate solution

By law, tanker trucks that carry dangerous liquids such as oil must be fitted with perforated baffles. The baffles retard the forward movement of the liquid when braking. Mr Eenkhoorn's PhD research revealed why this is an inadequate solution. "The baffles do not provide any lateral stability, so there is still a high likelihood of the truck tipping over when cornering or in an emergency. Moreover, these baffles are not compulsory for certain liquids, such as liquid manure or milk. 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 a research and development company, spent ten years trying to find an alternative for the baffles. The result is an inflatable system called the "Cairbag," a type of airbag made of rubber or TPU that is placed inside the tank. The shape-retaining bag fills the empty space in the tank and absorbs the pressure of the bulk , so that the load can no longer slosh around during transport. This also has an additional advantage, says Mr Eenkhoorn. "Because the load no longer moves during transport, you save between 5 and 6% on fuel. In contrast, tankers with baffles guzzle fuel and may face heavy fines because of their environmental impact."

Credit: University of Twente

In his thesis, Eenkhoorn concludes that the existing laws will need to be changed the world over to reduce accidents involving tanker trucks tipping over. "The same rules that apply to solid loads should be applied to bulk liquids. Lawmakers need to reconsider the compulsory use of baffles. Such laws can only be changed if there is scientific justification to do so. This research has provided such justification. It is a powerful instrument to lobby the government to make the necessary changes."

Explore further: Keeping liquids off the wall

Related Stories

Keeping liquids off the wall

March 9, 2017

On Earth, liquid flows downhill thanks to gravity. Creating an effective liquid fuel tank involves little more than putting a hole at the bottom of a container.

Transport vehicles of the future

February 19, 2016

Emissions from the transport sector can be drastically reduced with more streamlined trucks. Researchers at Linköping University have calculated, and road carrier owner Erik Alfredsson has built an initial version of the ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.