At about 1055 on 21 August 2014, train 3DA2, carrying containerised freight (including dangerous goods), arrived at Snowtown, South Australia. While at Snowtown, the crew noticed smoke coming from one of the containers conveying dangerous goods. The crew contacted ARTC Network Control to arrange for the Country Fire Service to attend the site. An exclusion zone was set up around the site and the fire was brought under control with minimal damage sustained.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that freight within the affected container, including undeclared dangerous goods, had been packed in a manner that was not in accordance with the code of practice for Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road or Rail, or the Genesee & Wyoming Australia dangerous goods policy.
Genesee & Wyoming Australia had a documented policy on the transportation of dangerous goods, including a Standard Condition of Carriage, which documented the obligations of GWA’s customers when providing freight for transportation. However, GWA had no active verification processes in place to check and confirm compliance with those requirements (either in total or in part through random selection). Such a process may have provided the opportunity to detect any undeclared dangerous goods or inappropriately packed freight before an incident or accident resulted.
What's been done as a result
GWA has undertaken an independent audit of their policies and procedures for consigning freight, including the adequacy of training in receiving handling and storage of dangerous goods. GWA has also undertaken to improve communications with customers at their Alice Springs and Darwin terminals to identify where deficiencies may exist and how they might be best addressed.
This incident illustrates the importance of freight forwarders and rail operators ensuring that dangerous goods freight accepted for carriage meets the relevant requirements of the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road or Rail code of practice. All rail operators should ensure that their policies and procedures for the acceptance of dangerous goods are effective in ensuring that the goods accepted have been appropriately packed to minimise the risk of incidents during transportation.