Sunday, October 21, 2018

New investigation: 6/2/2018 XNG rollover crash in Albany


This is my first of two MAJOR investigations which I am working on, relating to #BombTrucks.

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Bill Huston's new investigation:

The 6/2/2018 XNG rollover crash in Albany: 2.0 miles from the Governor's Mansion, 2.5 miles from the Capitol Complex

This is the recommended 1/2 mile evacuation zone recommended in the 2016 Emergency Response Guide (aka, the "Orange Book" or ERG) if there is a release of gas. A call was made to the National Response Center stating that there was a "potential release of gas".


Also, remarkably, road flares were used, as they were at every prior rollover:

Were the first responders here given adequate training in the hazards of these new, experimental vehicles, and how to deal with these in an emergency? 

The ERG specifically says not to use road flares, and the trailer WAS placarded. So this seems like a human error on the part of first responders, who put themselves and others in harms way. 

First responders who responded to this event should review this material, and to strive to ensure these mistakes are not repeated. 


On 6/2/2018, at a little after 8 am on a clear Saturday morning, this XNG tractor trailer with a heavy, HAZMAT, high pressure Quantum trailer, loaded with about 1,500 lbs of natural gas at 200 psi, crashed at mile marker 141 on I-87 Northbound, very close to the Albany NY Capitol District.

This pressure is about 400 times the pressure of utility gas coming into most city and suburban homes.

The truck and trailer hit a guardrail, then rolled 270 degrees, destroying the power unit (tractor) and seriously injuring the driver. The crash took out 12 box beam guide rails, 16 posts, and 2 delineators.

This was the original diagram as included in MV-104A.
I believe this is close, but with a slight error.
See my modified version below:

Standard procedures were not followed (according to the Emergency Response Guide):
  • Flares were used
    (Let's see... CNG cargo at potentially extreme pressure... What could go wrong?!)
  • Also, 3 of 4 lanes on the Thruway remained open. 
  • No evacuations
  • Pole utilities not shut.
In 3 prior rollover accidents a completely different protocol was used, including a) evacuations to 1/2 mile, b) 12-hour road closure, c) deactivation of pole utilities to reduce spark risk.

The report of the Selkirk 1st Asst. Fire Chief says that a federal regulator, likely PHMSA, started taking command, ordered the trailer not be moved. But then someone (he thinks it was the Thruway Authority) told the feds to shove off.

The driver, who was "bleeding badly from the face, hands, and feet" was not transported to the hospital until 10:40, 2.5 hours after the event began.

XNG: A PATTERN OF ABUSE of their Drivers

Drivers involved in XNG rollover accidents often do not get critical care for hours after the accident. This is a pattern. But why?

  • The driver of the truck which rolled over 2/21/17 in Forest Lake did not get critical care until about 3 hours after the accident.  

The driver (29, F) of the XNG truck involved in the 2/21/2017 rollover crash in Forest Lake Twp, Susquehanna Co, PA, less than 1 mile from the terminal, suffered a traumatic head injury during the accident which was potentially life-threatening.

She did not receive critical care for at least 3 hours after the accident. 

She had suffered a traumatic and potentially life threatening head injury during the crash. She was taken to the hospital with the word "Cabot" on the sign. (Cabot is the driller. It's their gas in these #BombTrucks!)

Before her vital signs were taken, they made her submit to a drug test. Apparently, drug tests trump critical care at the Cabot Hospital. This is purely done to give the company a way to escape legal liability.

But there are many problems with this. Drug tests are fallible. Some people who test positive for some drug may not actually be impaired. These tests can not help and can only harm the person in the accident needing critical care, in that it can provide a reason to terminate employment and/or deny medical benefits.

IMO, the biggest problem is that focusing on drug testing the driver, is that it distracts away from the job of forensics: a search for other contributing factors, like mechanical defects with the truck, or possible operational problems with how the company is doing business, which could impact many other lives beyond this one accident.

But that kind of exposure could really hurt the bottom line. Finding any way to blame it on the driver is just the corporation saving money. The fact that the hospital (allegedly chartered to do no harm, and to administer critical care for public benefit) participates in this scheme shows just how far things have gone.

Morality or ethics is apparently not in the corporate cost/benefit equation at the Cabot Hospital in Montrose.  It's all about corporate profits.
BH Bottom Line: A drug test should not take priority over administering critical care for a potentially life-threatening injury. THREE HOURS IS TOO LONG! SHE COULD HAVE DIED, or suffered permanent brain injury

In terms of why does it happen, I believe a big part of the problem is that the first responders are trained to allow the Company Man to take control of the emergency response.  These trucks are so exotic, on the Company Man really understands the best practices. Once the company takes command, then everything else falls into place.

  • The driver of the second rollover (technically, a tipover) on 7/12/2017, also in Forest Lake 1.5 miles from the terminal, did not receive critical care for about 10 hours.  A drug test, however, was taken after about 2 hours.

Photo: Vera Scroggins
He suffered multiple injuries during the incident, including when jumping ~6'ft out of cab Again, there was a transport to a clinic in Vestal for a drug test. After that, the driver was returned to the terminal, where he eventually was transported to the hospital in a private vehicle.

Time & Response logs from Albany crash
  Here is an excerpt from the Time/Response logs of the 6/2/2018 event in Albany County. 

Things to observe in this first page:
8:06:59: First call came in, tractor trailer rollover

8:09:49: Driver is out, and bleeding. Reports from people calling 911 report he is bleeding from his head, feet, and hands.

8:23:06: Despite that the trailer is placarded as UN-1971 (Compressed Natural Gas), first responders do not apparently realize that the truck's lading is HAZMAT until 16 minutes after the accident.

First responders learn, by asking the driver, the lading is "empty methane tanks".
Empty Tanks?
NOTE: These tanks are NEVER empty. This trailer holds almost 1 US Ton of methane (~0.7 tons) --even when unloaded. This is needed to provide the 200 lb psi minimum working pressure.

According the the Ideal Gas Law, the relationship between pressure and mass is linear. 
So if we have 24,176 lbs @ 3600 psi, we can easily calculate the mass at 200 psi:

(24176 / 3600)  = ( N / 200), solve for N

200* (24176 / 3600)  =  N 

N= 1,343 lbs.

A Different Protocol is Used:
No Evacuations? No Venting? No Road Closure?

Despite that this was a densely populated area (2 hotels, a restaurant, and a gas station all within 1,000'ft), there were no evacuations. The Thruway was kept open. Power lines were not de-energized. The tanks were not vented prior to touching the trailer. 
8:53:04: DEC chemical spill response is dispatched for 5 gallons of DEF fluid. There is no mention of any HAZMAT response for the lading: approximately 2,000 lbs of potentially explosive CNG gas.
PS: You can listen to the actual audio at the BH-DCS Virtual Pipelines archive:
-> Enter Archive 
-> Operators 
-> XNG 
-> traffic incidents
-> 2018-06-02 Albany Co Rollover
Click download on the "911 audio" folder, then load into your media player.
Next page:
10:32:40: Trailer has been uprighted without first venting or transferring any residual gas. The Thruway (I-87) was not closed. Pole utilities were not de-energized. There were no evacuations.
THIS IS A VERY DIFFERENT PROTOCOL than observed at three prior rollovers, and remarkably, just 2.0 miles from the Governors' Mansion.

At 3 prior rollovers (2x @ Forest Lake, PA, and 9/12/2017 @ Hartwick, NY), a very different protocol was used:
  • Extraordinary care was taken. 
  • The road was closed for 12 hours.
  • All homes and businesses evacuated to 1/2 mile radius.  
  • All residual gas was transferred to another truck, or vented to the atmosphere, before the trailer was moved. 
  • All utility lines (elec. power, phone, cable TV) were de-activated.

Federal Authorities sent home

One of the strangest things I found when investigating this story is that at one point, apparently federal authorities from US DOT were called to the scene. This report was filed by the Selkirk Fire Department:

But in other records obtained, I could find no record of the feds ever having shown up. 
So I kept digging, and eventually found this:

QUOTE: "The Thruway Authority called them* off (I think, but I don't know for sure." ENDQUOTE  
     -- Selkirk 1st Asst. Fire Chief
(* "them" = Federal Authorities from U.S.DOT)

This was on a Federal jurisdiction Interstate Highway.  Also, the trailers are permitted under the US DOT. So the Feds clearly have some jurisdiction here.

But the NY State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) is has a strange shared jurisdiction with the feds on this highway. This was created by NY law PBA §352, but there must be an agreement with the feds.

(I have not researched this question fully.... PLEASE leave a comment or send me an email if you know something about the legal authority of NYSTA. Thanks!)

NYS DOT Hazmat was called out, for a spill of 5 gallons of DEF fluid.

The driver was seriously injured, but was not transported for 2 hours 40 min. The driver said the trucks lading was "empty methane tanks", but there was still approximately 2,000 lbs of explosive compressed natural gas (CNG) @ 200 psi in the "unloaded" configuration -- anything less can damage the tanks and provoke an expensive re-qualification procedure. Or else their $500k to $700k specialty tankers will be scrap.

Even unloaded, this is a HEAVY combo.
By my calculation an unloaded(*) Quantum VP-Lite51 is 71,636 lbs++!

(* Remember friends, these tanks are almost NEVER empty!)
(++ 18,000 lbs=tractor, 2,000 lbs=base gas, 51636 lbs=container, tanks, chassis. [SOURCE])

Neither the MV-104A (accident report) nor the DOT inspection performed by NYSP notes the VIN number of the shipping container (only the trailer chassis, and the tractor). There was NO MENTION an any report of what seems like possibly the root cause of the accident: a seriously bent forward-rear-driver's side trailer wheel.

This was 2.5 miles from the Albany Capitol Complex, and 2 miles from Governor Andrew Cuomo's mansion.

EVERY OTHER rollover crash, the road was closed for 12 hours, all utilities disconnected to prevent sparks, and tanks were vented.

Question: Why was the protocol so different for this crash, so close to the State Capitol? Why did first responders fail to identify the trailer as HAZMAT, and potentially explosive? Why does NTSB not investigate each crash of a trailer like this like an airplane crash?

Why does it require a couple of amateur citizen-sleuths to put this all together instead of the government regulators?

I believe there were many errors here which put human lives in harms way.

Possible Root Cause Never Mentioned in Accident Report

I was showing the FOIA'd crash photos to my friend Ray Kemble. He's a master truck driver, specializing in HAZMAT, heavy rigging / heavy hauling. He operated a tow truck for many years, so understands a bit about trucks, and truck accidents.

He pointed out a feature in the photos which he thought was significant: The front-most wheel on the driver's side of the trailer has a huge dent in it, and the tire is flat. Ray said
"That's what caused this accident. He hit something big, some debris in the road. Must have been the size of a V8 to overcome the pressure in the tire, and to bend an aluminum wheel that much. When he hit (whatever it was), it must have sent the rear of that trailer airborne."

So here's my idea of what they accident really looked like:

The combo had been executing a lane-change from the passing lane to the driving lane, according to the driver. That's the last he remembers.

When the rear of the trailer hit the debris, it went airborne, it caused the power-unit to lose traction on the steer-axle. It pitched the trailer counter-clockwise (as observed from above), and probably pitched the tractor in the opposite direction, sending it out of control into the guard rail.

The trailer became a 27 ton brick, pushing a 9 ton tractor, which at this point was "along for the ride", totally out of control. 


RECOMMENDATION: ALL XNG vehicles should be immediately grounded for the following reasons:

1:Revocation of US DOT Special Permit:

The Quantum trailers XNG uses have leaked in a crash on multiple occasions:

  • 2/21/17 Forest Lake PA (source: Emergency Management Radio Audio)
  • 7/12/17 Forest Lake PA (source: Emergency Management Radio Audio)
  • 7/11/17 Exeter NY (source: FOIA's DOT Truck inspection)

This is a violation of the US DOT Special Permit. All trailers under Quantum Fuel Systems' SP-16524 Special Permit should be IMMEDIATELY GROUNDED under all carriers (NG Advantage, etc).

A more detailed blog is coming soon outlining this argument.

2: XNG Vehicles Misconfigured &Overweight

While the power unit involved in the Albany rollover crash was a 2012 Volvo VNL330 Day Cab with a D13 12.8L inline-6 Diesel engine, the vast majority of XNG's power units are 2017 Freightliner Cascadias w/a Cummins Westport ISX12G CNG motor, and is rated for 53,300 lbs GVWR.

XNG CNG Freightliner Cascadia is rated for 53,300 GVWR
(Leaked photo-- click to make larger)
Inspection Report from
7/11/2018 Exeter crash
(click to make larger)

By attaching a Quantum VP-Lite51 trailer (sometimes called a VP-650@3600) loaded with natural at 3600+psi, XNG creates a combo of est. 94,000 lbs.This was the exact combo in at least 3 rollover crashes: 

  • 2/21/2017 Forest Lake, PA (Susquehanna County) --2017 CNG Freightliner Cascadia + Quantum VP-Lite51 or VP-650
  • 7/12/2017 Forest Lake, PA (Susquehanna County) --2017 CNG Freightliner Cascadia + Quantum VP-Lite51 or VP-650
  • 7/11/2018 Exeter, NY (Otsego County) --2017 CNG Freightliner Cascadia + Quantum VP-Lite51 or VP-650
There have been two additional rollover crashes, w/different combo
  • 9/12/2017, Hartwick, NY (Otsego County) --2017 CNG Freightliner Cascadia + Hexagon Titan-4
  • 6/2/2018, Bethlehem, NY (Albany County) --2012 Volvo VNL330 D13 Diesel + Quantum VP-Lite51 or VP-650
Weight Estimates:

Tractor (2017 CNG Cascadia): 18,000 [est]
Chassis (Pratt 10-2 spread axle air ride): 9,420 [Source]
Quantum VP-Lite51: 42,960 [Source]
Gas Mass: 23,850
Working Gas Mass: 21,850  (about 2,000 lb when unloaded, never empty)

Total GVW: 94,230 lb (loaded) Max allowable* 80,000 lb  
     (* w/o overweight permit)

Tractor rated for: 53,300 lb
Combo Exceeds Mfgr GVWR by: 40,930 lbs.
3: XNG Corporate Character

I have been following the Oil and Gas industry for about a decade. In that time, I've come across some VERY sleazy operators. But XNG has to take the prize. 

These guys have made every kind of technical error, misconfigured trucks, drivers untrained and unprepared for what to do in an accident, not knowing the risks of these vehicles, they have stiffed their contractors, like J.W. Danforth for $MILLIONS, they have violated many laws, avoid regulatory compliance, and almost never get permits which are required, paying negotiated fines amounting to pennies on the dollar. 

12 Known Incidents in the first 18 months of operation, including FIVE rollover crashes:

XNG co-founder Matt Smith has told some outrageous lies to public officials, first responders, and the general public, including that it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for the trucks to explode!

Here's one example, in an email to the head of Otsego County Emergency Management, Art Klingler:

He repeats that here at 1:25:08: 

But of course this is RIDICULOUS! There are many examples of Type-4 CNG tanks exploding in fuel-tank service, such as the  1/27/2015 explosion of the CNG trash truck in Indianapolis, which sent heavy shrapnel 1,200'ft away.

The only difference is, the tanks in XNG's #BombTrucks are bigger.... much bigger....


1: First Responders in the Albany crash made several errors which put human lives at risk of harm, including other first responders and the general public. The procedures recommended in the ERG were not followed in several key areas.

RECOMMENDATION: These first responders should, at a minimum, receive training so that these errors are not repeated. 

2: The Quantum VP-Lite51 (aka, "VP-650 @ 3600 psi") should be immediately grounded for violation of their Special Permit. (leaking tanks in an accident).

3: XNG, the company and executive management, are lawless rogues, and should be jailed for crimes of lying to public officials, negligence, and malfeasance which endanger human lives. They certainly should not be doing business in New York, or Pennsylvania.



I work in the public interest, and exist solely on grants and donations. (One of my projects is currently funded with a small grant, but it is not enough to pay my bills).

I have put around 200 hours researching the Albany crash, and about 1600 hours in my research into #BombTrucks total, since April 2017. At a living wage ($15/hr), I have donated about $25,000 of my own time on this work, please other expenses relating to making FOIL requests, etc.

Out of $25,000 donated hours, I am looking for just $3,000, centering on this Albany crash. I need this to keep going. I have many bills in arrears, and I really need a new pair of glasses!

PLEASE DONATE IN ANY AMOUNT to support my work documenting the MANY hazards of Type-4 CNG carbon fiber composite #BombTrucks.

The easiest way to donate is by PayPal:

If you need to send a check or money order in the mail, please contact me for the address:

Thank you!


MANY THANKS to Craig Stevens and Ray Kemble for research assistance.


I would not be able to do this work
without YOU!

William Huston:
Binghamton NY

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