The Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Research and Development is conducting research into passenger locomotive fuel tank crashworthiness. A series of impact tests is being conducted to measure fuel tank deformation under two types of dynamic loading conditions — blunt and raking impacts. The results of this research program assist in development of appropriate standards for puncture resistance requirements to be applied to alternatively-designed fuel tanks, such as on diesel multiple unit (DMU) passenger rail equipment. This paper describes the results of the first blunt impact test performed on a DMU fuel tank.

On June 28, 2016, FRA performed a dynamic impact test of a fuel tank from a DMU rail vehicle. The test was performed at the Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, Colorado. An impact vehicle weighing approximately 14,000 pounds and equipped with a 12-inch by 12-inch impactor head struck the bottom surface of a DMU fuel tank mounted vertically on an impact wall. The impact occurred on the bottom of the fuel tank at a location centered on two baffles within the fuel tank. The target impact speed was 11.5 mph, and the measured impact speed 11.1 mph. The test resulted in a maximum indentation of approximately 8 inches, the bottom of the tank bending away from the wall, and buckling of several internal baffles. Following the test, the tank was cut open to inspect the damage to the internal structure. This revealed that the buckling behavior of the baffles was isolated to the baffles immediately adjacent the impact location, each one buckling as the tank deformed inward.

Prior to the test, finite element analysis (FEA) was used to predict the behavior of the tank during the test. The FE model of the tank required material properties to be defined in order to capture plastic deformation. The combination of metal plasticity, ductile failure, and element removal would permit the model to simulate puncture for this tank at sufficiently-high impact speeds. The pre-test FE model results compared very favorably with the test measurements, and both the pre-test model and the test resulted in similar modes of deformation to the DMU fuel tank. Following the test, material coupons were cut from undamaged areas of the fuel tank and subjected to tensile testing. The post-test FE model was updated with the material behaviors from the post-test material testing.

This test is part of a research program investigating puncture resistance of passenger locomotive fuel tanks. The objective of this research program is to establish the baseline puncture resistance of current locomotive fuel tanks under dynamic impact conditions and to develop performance requirements for an appropriate level of puncture resistance in alternative fuel tank designs, such as DMU fuel tanks.

Future tests are planned within this research program. The lessons learned during the series of tests support finite element (FE) modeling of impact conditions beyond what was tested. Additional tests investigating the puncture resistance of fuel tanks during sideswipe or raking collisions are also planned.

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