May 4, 2019 10:08 pm
Updated: May 11, 2019 1:24 pm

Safety expert tells B.C. drivers to think twice before grabbing gas from U.S.

WATCH: A safety expert is speaking after Thursday's fatal, explosive crash near the Peace Arch border crossing. Police have not ruled out whether one of the vehicles was carrying gas cans, but the expert says there's no other explanation. Paul Johnson reports.


With record-high gas prices not disappearing any time soon in B.C., gas stations in Washington state say they’re seeing a growing number of Canadians visiting to fill up jerrycans on the cheap.

But a Vancouver Island safety expert says drivers should be extremely cautious before mounting a border run, reminding that transporting gasoline can be dangerous — and deadly.

“You’ve got a car bomb when it’s full of gas,” James Cooper, an independent transportation safety advisor specializing in commercial transport, said Saturday.

WATCH: (Aired April 29) New gas price app will tell you if a run for the border is worth it

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“Gasoline is extremely volatile. Even just a small amount of static electricity or anything with a spark, if that gas can is open and there’s fumes or a small spill, that can cause an explosion,” he said.

Regulations on both sides of the border say vehicles can transport a maximum of 440 pounds of fuel at a time, which equals roughly 12 five-gallon jerrycans.

But Cooper said people are regularly filling those cans too high, further increasing the risk by not allowing room for expansion.

READ MORE: Should B.C. regulate the price of gas? Economist says it’s the antidote to oil industry ‘gouging’

“What they’re not considering is, they’re putting gasoline into the trunk of a car and closing the lid,” he said. “There’s heat. It’s a contained space. There’s going to be fumes, just like in a boat. But boats have special equipment for venting the gas. Cars don’t.

“When you take all that into consideration, people are putting themselves at risk, they’re putting the public at risk, and I would say they’re creating a terrorist situation.”

He added the situation can become even more dangerous at the border, where vehicles are often forced to wait in hot temperatures for hours.

WATCH: (Aired April 23) Gas prices showing no signs of slowing down amid epic highs

“Agents should immediately notice there’s dangerous containers, take them immediately to customs, secure the vehicle and call the fire department,” Cooper said. “Don’t let them continue.”

Border patrol agents said Friday they hadn’t noticed a marked increase in cars getting pulled over for transporting gasoline unsafely.

Cooper said shipping gas across the border, which is technically still legal in Canada, should only be done on a flatbed truck that keeps the jerrycans in open air.

Searching for low prices

Ever since gas prices jumped past $1.70 per litre in B.C. in April, drivers have turned their eyes to alluringly low costs south of the border.

One Coquitlam man even developed an app that calculates how much a driver can save by crossing into the U.S. for a cheap tank of fuel.

READ MORE: Is it ‘worth the drive’ to Washington for gas? Coquitlam app designer says yes

Gilson Tsang said he makes the 80-km round trip from Coquitlam to Blaine about twice a month, and that it saves him close to $100 per month.

But concerns are being raising about border-running ever since Thursday’s fiery crash at the Peace Arch crossing.

The driver of a minivan was killed after a man from Washington state drove his Porsche into the vehicle lineup crossing into Canada, sending both vehicles into a nearby flowerbed.

WATCH: (Aired May 2) Fatal crash at Peace Arch Border Crossing

The minivan immediately went up in flames, prompting questions of whether jerrycans full of gas were in the back.

Surrey RCMP said Friday they are still investigating the cause of the crash, including what sparked the fire.

“We’re going to be looking at all the available evidence to look at what kind of things may have contributed — this was a very intense fire, a very dramatic scene, obviously traumatic for those who witnessed it,” Cpl. Elenore Sturko said.

READ MORE: Washington state man at the wheel in fatal Peace Arch border crash released: RCMP

“I can tell you we are looking at all available evidence and will determine all the factors leading up to this collision and whether other factors contributed to the intensity of that fire.”

Cooper said the crash could spark a review of the rules surrounding fuel transport, but that will likely be a long time before any change is implemented.

“We’re looking at several years, unless [Transportation Minister] Marc Garneau stands up and says, ‘No you can’t do it,'” he said.

— With files from Paul Johnson and Simon Little

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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