Using jerrycans comes with some risks

You might want to think twice, or at least gain a better understanding of the risks, of going across the line to fill up a bunch of jerrycans with cheap gas.

With prices in the Lower Mainland continuing to inch their way skyward, perhaps hitting the $2 per litre mark by summer, it’s little wonder Delta residents might not only want to fill up their tanks in Point Roberts, but also take back some extra.

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According to Transport Canada it is important that drivers are aware that gasoline is dangerous and needs to be transported safely, as per Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations.

The maximum people are allowed to transport is 150 kilograms in total, and each container cannot be more than 30 kilograms.

Noting containers must be approved for that use with all accessories intact, and secured properly for transport, Delta police spokesperson Cris Leykauf said, “When gasoline is being transported it should not be in the driver’s compartment or back seat due to the danger of fumes and combustion. It’s also dangerous to place containers filled with gas in the trunk. But if people are going to do this over a short distance, they should ensure each container is secured properly and is not loose.”

She said there’s been no recent files of drivers ticketed for infractions, but the police department’s commercial vehicle enforcement unit has issued tickets “many times in the past for vehicles with insecure cans of fuel, and taken the opportunity at that time to educate drivers.”

Ray Hollenberg, owner of Northwest Response Ltd. in Smithers, B.C., which specializes in fuel spill response preparedness, training, as well as fuel guidelines and audits, told the Optimist drivers wanting to fill up their jerrycans may not be aware of the high risk.

“I know for certain that any jerrycan, anything you have that has a dangerous good in it, must be secure in such a way that it cannot sway, move or leave the vehicle. Of course, the only way to do that securely is to have a ratchet. You cannot use bungee cords. Of course, vehicles are not designed to be securing jerrycans, so you’re not going to find any proper securing lug bolts. Everything we have in vehicles is not designed for jerrycans,” said Hollenberg. 

“Once you know the product, once you understand the risk, who would do that to themselves? The only reason I’d say they do it is that they do not understand the associated risk with that product. It would be like walking in the woods with a lot of grizzly bears carrying fish in your pocket.”

Hollenberg noted most of the current regulations are geared towards larger-scale commercial transport of fuel, while ordinary residents may not be aware of the flashpoint, the ambient temperature in which vapours can be produced in sufficient quantities they’ll ignite. The lower explosive limit at which vapor and oxygen mix, only requiring a spark such as a static charge to go off, for gasoline is minus-40 degrees Celsius.

“If you’re now sitting in a car and it’s plus-10 or plus-20, and this stuff has vapours that can come off it at minus-40, you can imagine how much more vapours are coming off,” he said.

Hollenberg, who helped write provincial fuel guidelines, also noted jerrycans should not be totally filled because in warmer temperatures fuel can expand in the containers, and, unless a cap is secure very tightly, added vapours can end up in a vehicle.

“There are a lot of what ifs, but the reality is if you have jerrycan and you have potential vapours in the car, and someone smokes in the car, or if you have a collision and nothing is tied down, you potentially could have an ignition source, an explosion in your vehicle,” he said.

The flash point of diesel fuel is around plus-38 degrees, the temperature at which vapours are produced, he added, making it a safer product than regular gasoline.


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