Imagine yourself in a tanker truck driving down the open road. The wind is touching your hair; you are listening to the truck radio show on “Trucker radio” or “Bandit” and enjoying the freedom! If you can imagine yourself like that, then being a truck driver is the career you should consider.
The trucking industry is a great place to work, especially if you like driving across town or across the nation; anything to not be cooped up in an office. Driving a tanker truck for a living and hauling out on the open road lifestyle might not be for everyone, but it can definitely be a rewarding career.
The great thing about being a tanker truck driver is the fact that every day is a little different, which isn’t the case for a factory worker on the chain line in Hershey’s.
Not all of them will have a tanker truck, but one thing for sure, they will all have a truck dispatcher who is in charge of getting the loads to be assigned and scheduled.
There are several key points to be aware of when working as a truck driver. Safety is of course one of them. Maintenance of your tanker truck and equipment is a MUST.
The two actually go hand in hand. If your vehicle is not properly maintained and there is an accident it will reflect on your Company’s Safety Records, which is regulated and maintained by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA.
There are several things to consider when getting a job as a tanker truck driver:
- What is to be hauled (dangerous, chemicals, hazardous)
- Special equipment required (personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Special training required (beyond normal driving, endorsements)
The great thing about driving, especially things out of the ordinary, is the excitement of the haul and the added pay and increased salary (for any potential risks). But not all tanker truck drivers haul dangerous chemicals.
So both, the driver and the dispatcher need to make sure everything is in order before taking/making an assignment.
Like I said every position has numerous things to consider. I can’t possible cover them all but here are 10 interesting facts about a tanker truck.
1. What Is A Tanker Truck
A tanker truck can refer to both a straight truck and a semi that hauls tanks. They are used for transporting a variety of liquids, gases, chemicals, and even bulk dry loads (grain, sand, etc.).
Typically a tanker truck is in the class 8 trucks and falls into any of the categories one would find: van/box trucks and flatbeds trucks. These being heavy duty, medium duty trucks or light-duty, based on their load capacities.
Tanker trucks can also be pressurized/non-pressurized, insulated/non-insulated, or vacuum-sealed. With some larger truck/trailer packages, they can even haul one or more loads.
Basically this means the loads will be divided while still stored in the same container. Sometimes they will piggyback multiple trailers as well.
Typically you will be required to have a CDL and the appropriate endorsements.
Heavy Duty Tanker Truck
Most likely the heavy duty tanker truck (trailer) will have a hauling capacity of 5,500 gallons to 9,000 gallons, with a gross weight over 26,000 lbs.
Depending on the use (what is being transported) the trailers can vary in sizes from 30 to 53 feet for single-trailer, but can be almost 100 feet for multiple-trailer rigs.
It is not common to piggyback dangerous or hazardous materials, although some companies do. It is more common for them to haul dry goods. Safety is always the number one priority, regardless what you’re hauling.
Medium Duty Tanker Truck
The medium duty tanker truck often referred to as frame carried, but can also be truck and trailer combination.
Frame carried is the similar to a straight truck; the tank is attached directly to the truck’s frame as one unit.
This tanker truck usually has a capacity from 500 gallons to 4,000 gallons. Their gross weight would then be below 26,000 lbs.
Light Duty Tanker Truck
Light-duty tanker trucks, these are usually smaller and are straight or a frame carried tanker truck.
Being small, they will have a capacity of 100 gallons to 1,000 gallons, typically. Their gross weight should be below 12,000 lbs.
2. Tanker Truck Driving Jobs
As I said above, a tanker truck is usually a larger vehicle, used to transport bulk dry goods, liquids, or semi-liquids.
They can operate either across town, across the state, or across the country (even going into Mexico and/or Canada).
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Typically a tanker truck will haul liquids of a hazardous or dangerous nature. This can include fuel, pesticides, cleaning solutions, and even toxic by-products.
Remember these items can be corrosive, poisonous, flammable, or in some cases, explosive. You will be required to have additional training, as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Tanker truck drivers can be in high demand, depending on the part of the country you call home. But this also comes with a higher salary range.
3. Tanker Truck Training And Education
Usually it’s a requirement that a tanker truck driver must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), obtained through an approved truck driving school.
There are numerous paid and free truck driving schools across the country and many have great training programs. But, not all of them offer tanker truck driving training, which is mandatory if you want to drive a tanker truck.
Like everything else, you will need to pass the Tanker Truck/Vehicle Examination prior to getting your tanker truck CDL and appropriate endorsements.
The good thing about being a tanker truck driver is that many companies offer a company sponsored training, or have their own training centers. So you could go to work for a company and they will train you.
Keep in mind though; typically tanker truck drivers are skilled and have several years of experience operating other types of trucks before being offered the opportunity to drive a tanker truck.
The trucking and transportation industry is constantly changing, either because of new regulation, new equipment, new technology, or any combination. Therefore the training is an ongoing process, constantly keeping the driver’s skills up-to-date.
4. Tanker Truck Driver Wages
Though a tanker truck driver typically gets paid a little better than many other types of commercial drivers, the pay does vary.
Some of the reasons are the location, the product being transported, and your employment status (actual employee or an independent trucker/owner operator).
Another factor to consider is the actual route and time on the road (miles). Is it local, across country?-The longer the route, the better mileage.
With that said, an average ‘employee’ tanker truck driver can make approximately $40,000 to $50,000 in a year, while the independent tanker driver/ OOP has an opportunity to make a little more, depending on the cargo and contract.
Though an independent seems to make more, remember they are responsible for all truck repair and maintenance costs on their trucks.
5. Tanker Truck Driving Lifestyle
This is the same as any other commercial truck driver. The tanker truck driver’s lifestyle largely depends on the product and the route they operate.
Safety is such an important factor, even more so with dangerous or hazardous loads. The average tanker truck driver spends more time inspecting their tanks and loads than the average driver.
Of course they still have the same responsibilities to protect the freight and when it comes to vehicle maintenance and such.
Being a tanker truck driver is both rewarding and demanding at the same time.
6. Tanker Truck Handling Tips
Driving heavy tanker truck really does demand a different approach to driving than does a small or light load. Safety is always the number one concern.
With that said remember it takes longer to stop. Be aware of your blind spots, especially in heavy traffic. Cars and motorcycle can jump in before you have time to react.
So maintain a safe travelling speed and distance. Also you can’t take corners as sharply as other vehicles.
Something both experienced and inexperienced drivers need to be concerned with jack-knifing. Basically this is when your tanker truck (or any truck pulling a trailer) has the trailer slide around towards the front of the truck.
Once the trailer exceeds a 45 degree angle (compared to the normal straight line of travel), jack-knife will happen.
There are many reasons why this can happen, with experience being only one of them. The most common is when the trailer actually moves faster than the truck!
Tanker truck drivers (or any truck hauling a trailer) have a greater chance of experiencing this on icy or wet road or on one of the dangerous roads in USA. It has also occurred when the trailer is empty and the driver tries to brake too fast.
7. Type Of Tanker Trucks
I already covered what a tanker truck is (heavy, medium, light) and their loads limits and sizes. But what do they actually do? Of course they haul stuff, usually liquids or gases.
But they are also water trucks, milk trucks, they can transport fertilizer, propane, corn syrup, just about anything that comes in large quantities and is in a liquid state.
However, they also transport bulk dry products, such as grains, seeds, and sand.
So remember, even though you need a CDL with the proper endorsements, not everything you transport will be dangerous, toxic, and/or hazardous.
8. Tanker Truck Safety Requirements
Besides the usual CDL requirements and mandatory endorsements there are a few other considerations for tanker truck driver to consider.
Simple things like getting enough rest and visiting more often the truck stops. Observe the posted speed limits, but drive at speeds appropriate to the weather conditions.
Besides those things listed above, the first thing is to be familiar with the cargo you are transporting. Know your route that you will travel.
Make sure to have an updated weather forecast, and keep it updated. Maintaining your truck in proper working condition and is also a must. These are just a sample of what you need to consider.
To learn more the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) , offers a lot of really good information regarding safety, as does the Department of Transportation (DOT) .
Tanker Trucks Required Endorsements
I know I’ve beaten the dead horse about tanker truck endorsements. But I can’t stress just how important these really are.
If you are caught hauling anything that would require an endorsement that you don’t have and you get stopped, you will earn a ticket and be fined.
They may seize your load. They may penalize you further; even take your CDL away! The company you work for will receive an unfavorable safety rating. This will then cost you customers. Don’t risk it.
Common endorsements and what it requires:
- H Endorsement: hazardous materials, (written knowledge test)
- N Endorsement: authorizes operating tank vehicles (written knowledge test)
- P Endorsement: transport passengers (written knowledge and skills tests)
- S Endorsement: school bus (written knowledge and skills tests)
- T Endorsement: towing double or triple trailer (written knowledge test)
- X Endorsement: HAZMAT and tank vehicles (written knowledge test)
10. Length Of Time Needed To Stop An Eighteen Wheeler
This is by far the most obvious and most overlooked thing when it comes to a tanker truck. I already said a large heavy object requires more time to stop (think of a large train) than a smaller or lighter one.
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But did you know an eighteen wheeler tanker truck can take 40% longer to stop than the average car! This depends on their load and other weather conditions.
Most drivers don’t think about this until it is too late!
Tanker trucks are a valuable asset for any organization to have in their fleet. If you are a driver and want to find ways to earn more, see about becoming a tanker truck driver. Though there is a lot of responsibility with a tanker truck it can also be very rewarding.
Are you a tanker truck driver? Considering becoming a tanker truck driver? What are your thoughts and suggestions? Share them with us.