Tanker trucks are larger than other trucks and often carry hazardous materials, presenting a bigger risk for accidents on the road. If motorists or others sustain injuries in an accident involving a tanker truck, they may qualify for compensation with the help of an experienced tanker truck accident attorney.
There are certain aspects to understand about tanker truck accidents and how they occur.
What Are Tanker Trucks?
Also known as tank trucks, tanker trucks haul cylindrical trailers. While some tanker trucks feature a separate trailer that enables the truck to pivot, other models include a trailer attached to the cab, which doesn’t allow for pivoting.
Trailer trucks may feature refrigeration, insulation, or pressurization to accommodate various cargo types. They typically feature stainless steel, aluminum, or carbon steel construction for ample durability.
What Materials Do Tanker Trucks Carry?
Tanker trucks may carry a wide range of cargo. Most tanker trucks in the U.S. carry gasoline and diesel fuel when transporting them to gas stations, but they may also contain many other substances. These materials are flammable or hazardous in many cases, making it necessary for tanker truck drivers to practice caution when operating these vehicles.
Some of the cargo that tanker trucks may carry include:
- Alcohol and alcoholic beverage items such as beer and wine
- Food oils like canola, olive, and vegetable oils
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Corn syrup
- Dairy products like cream and milk
- Dyes and paints
- Radioactive materials such as isotopes and ores
- Grain and flour
- Peroxides and other oxidizing chemicals
- Acids and other corrosive materials
- Tar and oil
Causes of Tanker Truck Accidents
Many of the same factors that cause commercial truck accidents contribute to tanker truck accidents. Many truck accidents involve these trucks, with one report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finding that tanker trucks caused 3,505 accidents in a single year. Additionally, the report concluded that tanker trucks contributed to 372 collisions resulting in eight percent of all truck accident fatalities.
Some of the leading causes of tanker truck accidents include the following:
Truckers often travel across the country over long periods to make efficient deliveries. As a result, many of these truckers experience fatigue. While rules require rest periods and work hour limits, drivers may not follow them.
Truckers also frequently drive overnight, interfering with their normal sleep cycle, leading to mild drowsiness to exhaustion. If drivers experience fatigue, they may fall asleep at the wheel, potentially causing an accident.
Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence, according to data from the FMCSA. Research shows that individuals who experience 18 or more hours of sleep deprivation exhibit the same level of impairment as a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08, which is the legal limit in the U.S.
Truck drivers, including tanker truck drivers, must not use their cell phones or other hands-on electronic devices when operating a vehicle. However, truckers can use hands-free devices such as headsets to make calls or perform other tasks. If a trucker uses their phone, even a hands-free device, they could cause a distraction that leads to an accident.
In addition to using cell phones, other activities cause distractions and increase the risk of an accident. For example, truckers may eat or drink on the road, adjust radio volume or change stations, observe objects and events outside of the truck, engage in personal grooming, or adjust cabin temperature controls.
Truckers and trucking companies must consistently maintain tanker trucks to prevent them from experiencing mechanical failures that can contribute to an accident. Tanker trucks must undergo preventative maintenance and safety checks to ensure these vehicles are in good condition. Failure to adequately maintain tanker trucks renders vehicles and individual parts more likely to fail, causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles.
Driving Under the Influence
As mentioned, the national legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is a BAC of 0.08, at which point a driver’s blood contains 0.08 percent alcohol content.
However, the legal limit is even lower for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), with the limit being 0.04 percent for these individuals. This limit means that CDL holders must avoid drinking and driving to minimize the risk of impairment. Additionally, truck drivers may choose to take prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs that lead to intoxication and increase the risk of a collision.
Factors That Make Tanker Truck Accidents More Dangerous
Tanker trucks are more dangerous than other commercial vehicles because of their combined mass and potentially dangerous materials they transport. Depending on the type of tanker truck and its cargo, several factors can contribute to tanker truck accidents.
Tanker trucks may transport flammable substances that can catch fire. In other cases, pressurized tanks could ignite in an accident. The resulting fires could lead to serious burn injuries or fatalities.
Trucks containing flammable substances could also explode in high-impact collisions at fast speeds. Similar to fires, victims may sustain serious burns and other injuries. Additionally, many victims of explosions suffer injuries from shrapnel.
Like other semi-trucks, tanker trucks may experience rollovers that severely damage nearby property and cause catastrophic injuries. Indeed, tanker trucks are more likely to roll over than other trucks because of the movement of their cargo.
Over time as tanker trucks make deliveries, the supply within the tank decreases. Lower levels of liquid materials could lead to sloshing as the truck moves, potentially changing the vehicle’s center of gravity. This weight change increases the driver’s chance of losing control of the vehicle.
Failure to properly load and secure tank trucks or maintain tank parts contributes to partial or complete spills. If a spill occurs, other motorists may lose traction on the road, and hazardous materials could cause injuries to motorists or pedestrians.
Connect with a Truck Accident Lawyer to Discuss a Case
The nature of tanker truck accidents can make them more severe than those involving other types of trucks. If you or a loved one sustains injuries in a tanker truck accident, you may seek compensation.
To find out whether you have a viable case, contact a truck accident attorney near you today.