First Full Week As A Tanker Yanker

Topic 19252 | Page 1

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Bud A.'s Comment
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Since we don't often hear much about tanker driving on this forum, I thought I'd share my first impressions as a new tank driver. As you may know, I started my truck driving career as a flatbedder 2 1/2 years ago. Rookies are often advised to start with something less challenging than flatbedding, since learning securement and learning to drive a big rig at the same time can be a little overwhelming. Looking back, I tend to agree, but I still say that if you are halfway good at math and really like working hard and being outdoors, flatbed is worth it. You just can't be the kind of person who is willing to run a little risk for a shortcut, since there are no "little risks" when it comes to having stuff fall off your trailer or having a load shift cause your truck to roll over.

Another kind of driving that is often discouraged for rookies is pulling tankers. From what I've seen, the tanker companies mostly agree, and not many hire rookie drivers. Those who do hire brand new drivers often have longer training periods built in (such as Prime's tanker division, which requires 10,000 more miles to complete TNT than the other divisions).

After being laid up for a few months following surgery, I went back to driving a couple of weeks ago with a food grade tanker company. I had a day of paperwork and videos, then went on three runs with more experienced drivers to learn how to operate a tanker. (I'm sure I have a lot more to learn, but I've got the basics at this point.) This week I got my own truck and ran four loads from Monday to Saturday. Here are some thoughts I've had:

1. Pulling a smooth-bore tanker is a lot different than pulling a flatbed. I've had loads that nearly filled the tank, and I've had loads where the tank was about 2/3 full ("grossed out" on weight before "cubing out" on volume). The ones where the tank is less full have more surge, but both kinds feel very different from pulling stuff where the weight doesn't constantly shift. It's like having a living thing behind you, and if you shift wrong or hit the brakes too hard, you feel it. I'm much more conscious of curves, turns, and following distance, and I'm working hard to become an even smoother shifter.

2. It's really nice to look in my mirrors for other traffic without also having to look to make sure that nothing is coming loose on my trailer.

3. Always running out full and back empty is nice. A lot of heavy haulers do this, but I never got to do this as an OTR flatbedder. I was always wondering where my next load would start. No more. Pump it off and head back to the terminal empty, even if it means driving 1750 miles to get back. (Would've had that load if I had had enough left on my 70!)

4. Even though I'm the kind of person who likes a challenge, "present-day me" wouldn't recommend starting out as a tanker yanker to "rookie me." It really requires that you know how to shift and turn and brake and generally control the truck without thinking too much. The high center of gravity and sudden weight shifts caused by surge in tankers means that a little mistake can become a big problem a lot quicker if you are still learning to drive.

I hope this is useful, and that other tanker drivers here will chime in with the stuff I've forgotten to mention.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14ยข per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

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.

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

Thanks Bud! Enjoyed reading your post. Tank is something I always wanted to try, but probably will never get the chance to. I'll live vicariously through you by reading your posts. We gotta get Daniel B. to comment a little more about his gig. Russian recluse.

Blake W.'s Comment
member avatar

Very interesting to read. Many thanks for sharing this!

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