This story appears in the Aug. 24 print edition of Transport Topics.
Trucking and logistics operator Kane Is Able Inc. has sued Volvo Group North America, Cummins Westport and Agility Fuel Systems in connection with the fire and explosion of a CNG-powered tractor earlier this year, seeking to recover damages related to the incident.
Kane Is Able, based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, sued Volvo, engine maker Cummins Westport and Agility, which installed the fueling system, for breach of warranty and to recover costs of destroyed cargo.
The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, where the VNL64T300 caught fire and exploded earlier this year.
The carrier and logistics company, which ranks No. 26 among warehouse firms listed in Transport Topics Logistics 50, didn’t specify an amount of damages being sought.
“We had no other recourse than to file suit,” Kane’s chief financial officer, Lou Houck, told TT on Aug. 19, explaining that the carrier reviewed the incident for months with Volvo and its suppliers before the original equipment manufacturer halted the process. “As that review progressed, the safety of the vehicles wasn’t clear to us.”
Volvo spokesman Avery Vise told TT that the company believes the suit is “without merit,” noting that the engine and fuel tanks weren’t made by the OEM.
“We worked closely with our supplier partners to thoroughly examine the vehicles Kane decided to park,” Vise added. “This investigation convinced us that the vehicles should be returned to service.”
“Based on our investigation, we do not believe the fuel system caused or contributed to the incident,” Agility Fuel spokesman Luis Salem said, adding there wouldn’t be further comment due to the pending litigation.
“Cummins Westport confirmed that the engine and all related systems were operating normally and reliably, and were not contributing factors,” a statement from the engine manufacturer said.
Cummins Westport made the compressed natural gas engine, and Agility manufactured and installed the CNG tanks and fuel delivery systems, the suit said.
The carrier said in a statement that it hasn’t used the other six CNG tractors since the explosion for safety reasons. Houck said the company was fortunate that the driver was uninjured and that the incident occurred in a remote rural area rather than a city.
At the time of the January explosion, Kane’s suit said, the truck had been owned for six months and had run about 3,000 miles. The seven trucks were bought in July 2014, with one-year or 100,000-mile warranties, according to the suit.
The suit claimed the fire was caused by “intense heat emanating from the exhaust system of the tractor, which ignited paint, fiberglass and/or other combustibles in the vicinity of the exhaust system.”
“Our testing found no support for the cause of the fire suggested by Kane,” the Volvo spokesman said, adding that the OEM “was unable to identify any defect in the design, materials or manufacturing in any of the components installed by Volvo.”
Vise continued: “Volvo thoroughly investigated this incident in conjunction with the engine and tank manufacturers, keeping both the customer and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fully updated throughout.”
The complaint also noted a 2014 Cummins recall of ISX12 G engines that covered Volvo and other OEMs.
“After inspecting the remaining Kane trucks, Cummins assured Volvo and Kane that the engines were not part of that recall and had, in fact, been manufactured with the corrective measures implemented by Cummins as a result of the recall,” according to Vise.
Houck also said Kane remains interested in natural-gas fueling as the infrastructure has been built out.