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Châteauneuf-les-Martigues english summary

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publié le 9 février 2011

On 7 August 2006 at around 6:30 am, on the A55 motorway at La Mède, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, a semi-articulated lorry comprising a tractor unit and a tanker trailer loaded with 34,000 litres of hydrocarbons, including 15,000 litres of highly flammable petroleum, overturned and collided with a bridge pylon, causing its contents to ignite.

The HGV in question had just overtaken another HGV and was about to overtake a second when it was impeded by a car. It moved back into the right-hand lane and hit the second HGV, causing it to become destabilised. It then flipped over onto its left side, skidded all the way to the bridge and collided with it. The tank was split open by the impact and its contents caught fire.
The driver climbed out of his cab, but was caught in the fire and died on the spot. The burning vehicle was completely destroyed.
The fire, which spread to the scrubland by the side of the motorway, was quickly extinguished by the fire services, who arrived 15 minutes after the accident. Once the road surface destroyed by the fire had been repaired, the motorway was fully reopened to traffic at 8:00 pm.

The direct cause of the accident was the careless and unsuitable driving behaviour of the HGV’s driver. This behaviour took the form of excessive speed and dangerous manoeuvres, including the overtaking manoeuvre just before the accident and the attempt to overtake that led to the accident.
The fact that the transport company failed to detect and react to such excessive speed, which was commonplace, was an indirect causal factor.
The nature of the goods transported was an aggravating factor and the consequences of the accident could have been much more serious.
The use of the A55 motorway by a great deal of lorries carrying dangerous goods, hydrocarbons in particular, is also a significant factor that needs to be taken into account for the safety of this route.

With respect to these different points, the BEA-TT has formulated two recommendations. The first relates to the vigilance road transport companies must practise regarding the behaviour of their drivers, while the second calls for a study into a possible ban on overtaking by HGVs transporting dangerous goods on this route.