What New Drivers Need To Know About Tanker Trailers:
A general shortage of qualified tanker drivers could mean better pay rates for those who take the jobs. There are also many local opportunities available.
Changes to the FMCSA definition of tank vehicle mean that drivers will require a tanker endorsement to carry over 1,000 gallons of liquid in ANY trailer.
Getting a tanker endorsement on your CDL will require passing a separate written test, apart from the CDL exam.
Physically, drivers may be required to climb on top of tank trailers to open the vents as part of the job.
Drivers will be responsible for unloading, as well as having the empty tanks washed out.
Pulling tanks full of sloshing liquid presents a different type of challenge for new drivers. Shifting loads could cause dangerous situations.
About Pulling Tanker Trailers:
Tanks can hold any manner of liquid, from fuel or chemicals to milk or sand. Depending on the freight, other endorsements like Hazmat may be necessary. TruckingTruth generally recommends that new drivers get all available endorsements when getting their CDL to improve their job possibilities.
Braking and turning will cause the liquid in the tank to slosh one way (a liquid surge), which requires the driver to anticipate it and adjust for it. When the wave hits the end or side of the tank, it tends to push the truck in the same direction as the wave is moving. On slippery surfaces, this could push the truck into places like intersections, into other vehicles, or off of cliffs. It could also cause the truck to roll over. All very un-good.
Of course the liquid, doing what liquid enjoys doing, will then slosh in the opposite direction, requiring the driver to anticipate this change, and make another adjustment, planning his moves far in advance to avoid accidents and damage to the vehicle.
The slosh effect is even greater the less full the tanker is, as the liquid will travel at greater speeds and hit the walls with greater force.
Unloading the tanks is also part of the drivers responsibility, and generally requires just hooking up some hoses and letting gravity pull the liquid out. Most trailers are also equipped with pumps, and drivers may be required to pump out the load. Generally, drivers will be paid extra unloading pay.
It is the driver's responsibility to have the tank washed out after every load, which can take alot of extra time and effort.
Bridge height is not normally an issue for tankers.
Types of Tanker Trailers:
Fuel and Petroleum:
Carries gasoline, fuel oil, propane. Will probably require a Hazmat endorsement, and may be considered a more dangerous job.
Used to carry water, milk, juice, etc. Some are equipped with heating and/or cooling systems. Also have dry bulk variations to carry sugar, flour, salt, etc.
Chemical and Acid Tanks:
Used to transport various types of industrial chemicals. Some are specifically designed to carry corrosive chemicals.
Used to haul sand, fertilizer, roofing asphalt.
How Do Tanker Trailers Work?
Some tanker trailers will be divided in to several different sections by bulkheads (partitions). This will require the driver to pay closer attention to weight distribution, by not loading too much weight in the front or rear of the vehicle.
Other tankers will be "baffled" No, not "bewildered" or "confused". Basically just bulkheads with holes in them.to help control the backwards and forwards liquid surges.
Food-grade tankers are usually un-baffled (also called "smooth bore" tanks), and have nothing to slow down liquid surges. Because of the difficulty in washing them, sanitation regulations prevent partitioning tanks that will hold food items.
Tankers are not completely full, as a totally full tank trailer will probably exceed maximum weight limits, so the slosh factor is ever-present when pulling them.
Fun Fact: When you unload a tanker you have to vent it by opening up the hatch on top. If you unload a tanker without venting it, the trailer will implode like an empty soda can.
Bonus: Video Of Improperly Vented Tanker Imploding
Changes To FMCSA Regulations Re-defining Tank Vehicles:
Recent changes in FMCSA regulations mean that drivers pulling liquid freight over 1,000 gallons, regardless of trailer type, hazardous or otherwise, will be required to have a tanker endorsement:
"Tank vehicle means any commercial motor vehicle that is designed to transport any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank or tanks having an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is either permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis." Hauling more than 1,000 gallons of liquid, regardless of trailer type, will require a driver to have a tanker endorsement.