Chemical Tanker Lifestyle Vs Reefer Lifestyle

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Dave Reid's Comment
member avatar

Note: TruckingTruth has a new article on this topic called The Complete Guide To Pulling A Chemical Tanker so check it out!

I've read everything I can find about hauling tankers. Most of the available information speaks to the driving issues - I believe that I understand as much as I can about that without actually getting tanker experience.

My question here is about the lifestyle issues. I've pulled reefers for about 9 months, and I pulled a dry van for a couple of weeks. So that's what I'm familiar with.

I have an offer to go with bulk liquids hauling - non food grade, so various chemicals. I've got my tanker endorsement, hazmat endorsement, and TWIC - so I"m all set with the credentials if not the experience.

I've heard that professionalism and courtesy are generally better at shippers/receivers than is often the case with van work, and that appeals to me. I also would like not having to move tandems , not having to sweep or pull nails, not having to wait for one to twelve or more hours for crops to come in and get chilled or meat to be processed.

I like to drive in daylight hours as much as possible. I'll drive in the dark when necessary to make appointments, but I don't want to. Will this be better with tanker than with pulling a reefer ?

I like it when appointments are for a time range rather than a specific time. Will there be more of that with tanker?

I like it when shippers/receivers will let you in to park when you arrive, and let you remain after you load if you don't have hours to roll. Maybe half the reefer places accomodate this...probably less than half. Will this be better or worse with tanker?

I've got a delivery coming up in downtown Chicago in a couple of days. The receiver has no parking, only allows you to check in fifteen minutes before appointment, and won't take you if you're one minute late. With this sort of garbage be better or worse with tanker?

I like it when shippers/receivers are outside of town, not in the middle of urban jungles. Will this be better or worse with tanker?

If someone who has done both reefer and tanker could tell me about these kinds of things, I sure would appreciate it!

In case you're wondering, it is Schneider National that I'm considering. They've already approved me, subject of course to the usual.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Dave, it's fair to say you're looking for a less demanding and more flexible lifestyle out there. You're certainly not going to find that with tankers, especially chemical tankers. The place to be for what you're looking for is dry van.

I've heard that professionalism and courtesy are generally better at shippers/receivers than is often the case with van work, and that appeals to me

Well you're dealing with chemical plants so the people are normally rather professional but I don't really understand what you mean here exactly. People are people. You're going to find all kinds no matter what type of trailer you're pulling.

I also would like not having to move tandems , not having to sweep or pull nails, not having to wait for one to twelve or more hours for crops to come in and get chilled or meat to be processed.

You'll have to wait on chemicals to get made sometimes or for the consignee to make room in their tanks. And don't forget, you're talking about dealing with hazardous chemicals. Often times you'll have to watch safety movies, wear a hardhat and glasses at all times in the plant, face far more strict DOT standards, be far more careful about what routes you take and where you can park, you can't leave your truck for long periods of time like you used to, and all kinds of other problems. Pulling nails and sweeping a trailer isn't nearly as bad as dealing with sulfuric acid, you can be sure.

I like it when appointments are for a time range rather than a specific time. Will there be more of that with tanker?

No, not likely. You'll find that most often in dry van.

I like to drive in daylight hours as much as possible

Again, dry van or maybe even flatbed is best for this.

I like it when shippers/receivers will let you in to park when you arrive, and let you remain after you load if you don't have hours to roll

You will not find this in chemical hauling. You're dealing with chemical plants. Do you really want to spend your time parked at nasty chemical plants even if they allow it?

I like it when shippers/receivers are outside of town, not in the middle of urban jungles

You'll find a mix of both with chemicals.

Finally, you'll have to get that tank washed out regularly which is a hassle. You have to take it to a tank wash facility and sit around waiting on it to be washed. Could be an hour, could be five hours, you never know. It's an extra stop and extra hassle involved.

Here are some articles I wrote:

Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part VI: Dry Van and Refrigerated Companies

Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part VII: Tankers and Flatbeds

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Dave if you are looking for additional stability I suggest researching the Dedicated Accounts available through Schneider.

For instance; Schneider is the Walmart Transportation partner dedicated to running store loads and backhauls out of the Bedford PA Grocery D.C. That's one example. There are many others.

Susan D. 's Comment
member avatar

I deliver into Dow City and BASF in Wyandotte from time to time. There's an annual safety certification you have to complete at each location that consists of a video and written test.

I don't haul hazmat , but deliver large boxes from an IP container plant that these facilities use to pack dry chemicals in. It generally takes a few hours or more to get in and out of these places, due to all the security checkpoints you have to scan through with your badge to get to the appropriate building, check in again, then dock, then wait in an office while they unload, then go back through all the checkpoints and finally leave the "city". These places are indeed like small cities with mapped street names etc. Dow City is called that because it's a chemical plant "city" made up of 100 or so buildings .. each one a different Dow branded manufacturer. BASF is a little more relaxed in that they don't literally lock us in an office like Dow does and they actually have a smoking area. Incidentally, I've seen more fires at BASF than I have at Dow only because we're kept locked in offices at Dow.

I know if I'm going into a chemical plant to expect 3-4 hours for a simple unloading of 28 pallets of cardboard.

I dislike going to these places, but will do so without complaint because IP is our number one customer. Have fun with the chemical facilities. Personally, I'd just say no. Those places stink and are typically full of nasty fumes.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Dave Reid's Comment
member avatar

Brett, thanks very much for the information. So far, tanker still sounds good to me. I'm not a pansy and not looking for easy, I'm looking for better pay and maybe a little better sleep schedule. I don't mind working during my "break" some of the time, particularly if it is my choice, but I'd like to do at least somewhat less of it than I do now with reefer. For example, I got out of my shipper last night at 01:30. Had to improvise parking. Then I had to hit the road at 06:00 to make my pickup this morning...and I'll likely now be waiting here for for a long time, but can't really relax because I have to be ready to roll at a moment's notice. I'm hoping tanker would give me a bit more quality sleep and more pay. Even it it is the same scheduling, if the pay is more, I'd still be up for it. As far as parking, right now I"m always stuck with a trailer even when on home time. I'm sick of trying to find Walmart's that still allow parking so that I can get groceries. I stay out several weeks or more at a time so I can't reprovision as easily as the guys that go home every week or two. With the particular tanker gig I'm looking at, I'd be able to bobtail to shopping and to home whenever I want to. Still, I'm seeking all the info that I can get so I'm not jumping into the dark. Regarding flat bed...even though I claimed to not be a pansy, I don't want the tarping. I'm almost 60. If I were 30 and just completed time with the USMC, I'd go for flat bed. For me, now, it isn't a consideration.

Dave, it's fair to say you're looking for a less demanding and more flexible lifestyle out there. You're certainly not going to find that with tankers, especially chemical tankers. The place to be for what you're looking for is dry van.

Bobtail:

"Bobtailing" means you are driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

If want it easier with better pay and to not live out of a truck, why don't you do LTL? You're in a major east coast city - there are plenty of opportunities. Try looking into P&D with an LTL outfit. There are a ton of options for you if you want better pay with less hassle.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

P&D:

Pickup & Delivery

Local drivers that stay around their area, usually within 100 mile radius of a terminal, picking up and delivering loads.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers for instance will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

The lifestyle is fine, but you're a bit misguided w/re: to higher pay. Appointments are usually scheduled for a specific time; appointment windows do exist, but are rare. However, I've never had an issue making any of my appointments on time. Sleeping at a shipper or consignee has been surprisingly commonplace for me; because the facilities are nearly always located on the outskirts of a city or out in the boondocks, there is almost always a lot of some sort on or adjacent to their property where I can shut down. I've saved a ton of on-duty hours by sleeping at my customers' this way.

With Schneider at least, there is no wait when dropping your dirty trailer off at a tank wash. You'll drop your dirty tanker off at the tank wash, and then move on to your next assignment. I have, once or twice, gone to pick up a clean trailer, which the tank wash personnel just hadn't cleaned yet, but in those cases I contacted the good folks at Schneider, and got a new trailer assigned. The tank washes also offer one more option where you can shut down for the night, and take a shower if necessary. Several of the nicer tank washes even provide towels for the shower. There's two that I know of that will even feed you. They don't know it yet, but I'm buying them pizzas for Christmas.

With regard to pay, I don't think you're going to do as well driving tankers. While they offer higher cpm's, you're just not going to turn the miles that you would driving a reefer , dry van , or flatbed. I think that's the biggest misperception in our business. I've done pretty well for myself, but I wouldn't expect anyone to work the way I do; I haven't asked for a day off since I started running solo in June, consistently get to the shipper or consignee 12 to 24 hours early, I am often offloaded and gone by the time my official appointment time rolls around, and for this am rewarded with a constant flow of nice assignments.

There is a fair amount of physical labor involved; if you're not keen on tarping, you might not be keen on offloading chemicals. The hoses are not light, and you will be climbing up and down the ladder to the top of your tanker several times. In the summertime, you'll find yourself dripping with perspiration, and you won't be even halfway done yet. There are times when the customer will unload your trailer, but there are also times when you're doing the unload yourself. I never know until I get there how it's going to go. But if you're 60 and not in great shape, maybe you should rethink this.

I hope this has been helpful, please ask more questions as you have them.

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Dave Reid's Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the input, however I'm not looking for easier and I'm not looking to not live out of a truck. In fact, I specifically DO want to live in the truck.

I'm just looking for insight into the tank driver lifestyle, particularly from those who've done both OTR tanker and OTR reefer.

If want it easier with better pay and to not live out of a truck, why don't you do LTL? You're in a major east coast city - there are plenty of opportunities. Try looking into P&D with an LTL outfit. There are a ton of options for you if you want better pay with less hassle.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

P&D:

Pickup & Delivery

Local drivers that stay around their area, usually within 100 mile radius of a terminal, picking up and delivering loads.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers for instance will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Hey, this is a good topic and we've talked quite a bit about this over the years so I put together some information from across the site and wrote a new article about it:

The Complete Guide To Pulling A Chemical Tanker

Check it out!

smile.gif

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the input, however I'm not looking for easier and I'm not looking to not live out of a truck. In fact, I specifically DO want to live in the truck.

I'm just looking for insight into the tank driver lifestyle, particularly from those who've done both OTR tanker and OTR reefer.

double-quotes-start.png

If want it easier with better pay and to not live out of a truck, why don't you do LTL? You're in a major east coast city - there are plenty of opportunities. Try looking into P&D with an LTL outfit. There are a ton of options for you if you want better pay with less hassle.

double-quotes-end.png

I assumed you didn't want the typical OTR or regional lifestyle based on your comments, since a lot of your listed things you dislike can be typical of said lifestyle. It seemed to me you wanted it easier and more streamlined. I suggested P&D because it's daylight, you're in and out of customers, and you're not really doing any kind of labor. Of course, if you wanna live out of a truck, then home daily wouldn't be for you.

Also, being in the northeast, a decent amount of chemical tankers run around Jersey City, and that's about as urban jungle as it gets.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

P&D:

Pickup & Delivery

Local drivers that stay around their area, usually within 100 mile radius of a terminal, picking up and delivering loads.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers for instance will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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