U.S. Presidential Limo Breaks Down Due to Fuel Filling Error in Israel


From today's news: “Backup presidential limo on its way for Obama in Israel after fuel filling failure.”

U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Israel was tripped up by a preventable error – the Presidential limousine  was mistakenly filled with diesel fuel instead of gasoline/petrol.

One of the limousines in Obama's fleet has broken after reports that it was mistakenly filled with the wrong fuel at the start of the US president's visit to  Israel.

Another limo is on its way from  Jordan, according to Ma'an News agency, citing Israel's Channel 10, to replace one that was filled with diesel instead of gasolene.

This is clearly a preventable error… one that could increase the risk of harm to the President if the vehicle broke down in an unsafe location. I'm curious to hear if there will be any “root cause analysis” and corrective actions taken to prevent a future re-occurrence  (or somebody will just be punished).

In the U.S., diesel fuel nozzles at the pump are intentionally LARGER than nozzles for unleaded gasoline. This serves as a form of mistake proofing, or error proofing (read more at Professor John Grout's excellent mistakeproofing.com website).

Apparently having a larger diesel nozzle isn't the case in all countries — perhaps including Israel? Or was this just a problem at the location where the limo was fueled up?

Mistake proofing (“poka yoke” in Japanese) is a core part of the “Lean” management system and improvement methodology, tracing back to days before Toyota made cars. The term “jidoka” (automation with a human touch) traces back to Toyota's innovations with weaving looms that stop automatically when a thread breaks. This stops the production of bad fabric and saves a lot of worker time that would be spent cleaning up after the problem.

Hospitals are increasingly using Lean and mistake proofing techniques to prevent errors such as wrong site surgeries or giving the wrong medication (or dose) to patients. You can read about this in Chapter 8 of my book  Lean Hospitals and you can also get a free PDF on healthcare mistake proofing from Prof. Grout.

Mistake-proofing is more effective than signs that tell people to “be more careful.” If an error CAN occur, it might not happen every day, but it's basically inevitable when a person with an otherwise perfect track record has a bad day… as happened with the limo.

Update: Here is a sad picture of the limo on a tow truck.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. When I go to Grout’s website and click on the picture of the book cover, I get an error message. So, something is wrong somewhere. Any thoughts?

  2. Hi Mark,

    Last winter I put Diesel in my gas engine and it did wreck it completely. Had to replace the engine at $6,000.00. The self serve station that I used put diesel gas in the unleaded pump.

    • I’m really sorry to hear that Kelly. Did the service station own up to the problem and pay for your repair?

      I wonder if they have a way for the fuel delivery people to error proof their process (put the right fuel/octane into the right tanks) or if they just tell them to “be careful”?


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