The Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Research and Development is conducting research into fuel tank crashworthiness. Fuel tank research is being performed to determine strategies for increasing the fuel tank impact resistance to mitigate the threat of a post-collision or post-derailment fire. In accidents, fuel tanks are subjected to dynamic loading, often including a blunt or raking impact from various components of the rolling stock or trackbed. Current design practice requires that fuel tanks have minimum properties adequate to sustain a prescribed set of static load conditions. Current research is intended to increase understanding of the impact response of fuel tanks under dynamic loading. Utilizing an approach that has been effective in increasing the structural crashworthiness of railcars, improved strategies can be developed that will address the types of loading conditions which have been observed to occur in a collision or derailment event.
U.S. rail accident surveys reveal the types of threats fuel tanks are exposed to during collision, derailments and other events. These include both blunt impacts and raking impacts to any exposed side of the tank. This research focuses on evaluating dynamic impact conditions for fuel tanks and investigating how fuel tank design features affect the collision performance of the tank. Research activities will include analytical modeling of fuel tanks under dynamic loading conditions, dynamic impact testing of fuel tank articles, and recommendations for improved fuel tank protection strategies.
This paper describes detailed finite element analyses that have been developed to estimate the behavior of three different fuel tanks under a blunt impact. These analyses are being used to understand the deformation behavior of different tanks and prepare for planned testing of two of these tanks. Observations are made on the influence of stiffeners, baffles, and other design details relative to the distance from impact.
This paper subsequently describes the preliminary test plans for the first set of tests on conventional passenger locomotive fuel tanks. The first set of tests is designed to measure the deformation behavior of the fuel tanks with a blunt impact of the bottom face of the tanks. The test articles are fuel tanks from two retired EMD F-40 locomotives. A blunt impact will be conducted by securing the test articles to a crash wall and impacting them with an indenter extending from a test cart. This set of tests is targeted for late summer 2013 at the Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, Colorado.
Both blunt and raking impact conditions will be evaluated in future research. Tests are also being planned for DMU fuel tanks under dynamic loads.