Here Is What It's Like Pulling A Tanker

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Cwc's Comment
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We seem to focus on the negative side of tankers (with good reason) but if you've got a couple of years OTR what should you expect?

When I started thinking about it the only downsides to it I could find were slosh and I watched a youtube video where a guy tried to set his camera up in such a way that you could see the stuff in his cab move when a wave hit.

It was pretty hard to follow and I understand now but that didn't really help much. It's kinda something you have to experience to get the picture. But the first time you experience trying to slow down while heading downhill be ready to change your underwear. When all that weight goes from the tandems to the drives your fully aware of it and the tractor is not happy about it.

My first Glycerin load came out of Chicago and I headed south and stopped at the first Loves you come to on I-65. Snow on the ground and as I made the right into the parking lot to head towards the fuel island the entire truck moved what was probably 6 inches but felt like feet. I wasn't going to fast... for Palm oil.

Everything moves differently with liquid. From one material to the other but as I later found out even with two loads that weigh the same of the same liquid at different temperatures will act differently.

But what else can you expect? I work a lot of 14hr days and then some if I'm honest. I worked a few pulling a dry van but it just seems to happen more as a tanker. I think that has a lot to do with the food grade aspect. Some shippers don't want to load a trailer that has been cleaned longer than 24hrs. And some materials have to be cleaned asap after delivery. So your juggling your hours around the tank washes cleaning schedules.

I don't really want to focus on the bad parts. Because to be honest I don't think I could go back to dry van.

Showers at the tank washes aren't always the nicest... But I didn't have to wait in line for an hour either. Not to mention parking at someplace other than a truckstop is always a plus in my book.

People seem to be nicer. I've delivered to places with freight and was spoken to like a piece of trash... it happens. But I feel like most of the places I go to now everyone wants you to be there.

Detention happens... usually from a breakdown in production. And I mention it because when I pulled a dry van sometimes I would show up to deliver and everyone seemed like it was out of the blue like they didn't know I was coming.

Everyone knows your coming and they know what time you'll be there. So be ontime. Cause not only do they want you to be there, in a lot of cases they need you to be in order to not shut down production. Sending people home without pay cause you were late would be bad.

It gets tight!! I'd be nervous in a Chevy suburban at some of the shippers and receivers I go to. If you duck your head down at a 13'8 bridge your in for a real treat when you show up at a shipper and serpentine back through a couple loading racks that have a bunch of low hanging hoses and pipes. And don't forget... tankers are expensive.

With less places that take liquids you deliver to the same places alot whereas with *some* carriers your constantly going to new places. Depending on how you feel about that it can be a plus or minus for you. Personally I enjoy seeing the people I deliver to. I'm currently trying to become a "dedicated driver " to a place that takes two loads a day but.. I'm an OTR driver. I like the run.. it's 700 miles loaded and 700 empty and then repeat. Do that twice a week, sometimes 2.5 it makes for a decent check and the best part is I have time to stop and ride my bike for exercise.

It is very different to me from dry van. And not just slosh. The days tend to be longer and everything seems to be more condensed. This is subjective. And hopefully others like Brett,Daniel, and Pete will chime in and point out other things that I've missed. And I feel like we drive the "it's very dangerous nail" pretty hard so lets keep this one light hearted and see what we get.

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.

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.

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".

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

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.

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.
Cwc's Comment
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Thanks Brett.. I knew I forgot something.

G-Town's Comment
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CWC thanks for taking the time to write this. Fantastic piece of information; a page from your day-to-day experience.

PJ's Comment
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Great write up. Several customers I have been to several times know me now and I can go in and unload without any holdups. You will never ever do that in the box world... Tank washes are all over the board from their hours to the products they can clean. Don’t go above NJ with a petroleum based load, otherwise your going back to NJ to the tank wash. The EPA laws in New England are very strict. I agree I much prefer to shutdown at a tank wash instead of a truck stop. East St Louis tank wash is state of the art. Clean facility and a break area always has hot dogs, fresh popcorn, and fresh coffee. All free by the way. Much better quality than the truck stops sell. The folks handling the tank farms are much nicer and efficient than your run of the mill warehouse workers, and they actually want you there.

Kyle M.'s Comment
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I plan on going tanker after a year or so doing dry van. I was a fuel hauler for 3 days and liked the way people appreciated when you showed up. But insurance company told my company I didn't have enough experience to stay. Long story short reading on here has made me decide to get more then 3 months experience to pull unbaffled tankers. Trucking truth is one of my favorite places to come and read. Stay safe drivers

Baffle:

A partition or separator within a liquid tank, used to inhibit the flow of fluids within the tank. During acceleration, turning, and braking, a large liquid-filled tank may produce unexpected forces on the vehicle due to the inertia of liquids.

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.
Pete B.'s Comment
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Uncanny timing for this post CWC... earlier today I was thinking along these very same lines, that pretty much all of the discussion re: tankers is very doom-and-gloom, unlike reefer/dry van and especially flatbedders, who all seem to really enjoying talking about the particulars of their jobs. But that's the nature of this business. Then I thought about what it is that I really like about pulling tankers, and I've realized it's not so much pulling tankers as it is driving a big truck. There are aspects of tanker life that will keep me in this line of work until I'm done driving. They include, in no particular order: it's soooo much easier parking my 48' trailer than the 53' vans and flatbeds. I have gleefully backed into many-a-spot that the longer rigs have bypassed because they don't have the room in front to swing their tractors around to get backed in. Some spots are shorter because there is a light post or some other obstruction at the rear of the space, but just the right size for me. I also love backing in between two longer rigs... I back up all the way into the spot, so that the front of my tractor is recessed, behind the two on either side. Makes it near impossible to get the front of my truck clipped by some idiot that we've all seen on Youtube.

Additional parking options: I'm able to park at nearly every shipper and consignee that I visit, which allows me to get loaded or unloaded off the clock, saving precious hours. Because so many of the sites I travel to are in secluded areas or on the outskirts of towns/cities, there's almost always a dirt or paved lot for us trucks, or a parking lane of some sort that can be used. And again because a high number of facilities I go to are usually on the outskirts of towns, and near travel lanes, there is quite often a truck stop located at the exit I need, and close enough to get to the site off the clock. In 20 months of driving, I've had to pay to park only once. The tank washes provide parking as well, which CWC has already mentioned. I haven't been to the tank wash in East St. Louis, but I have been to the one in Kankakee, IL, where they always have barbecue prepared in a crock pot. There are several tank washes that provide towels with the showers.

I don't slide my tandems or my 5th wheel. They're fixed. That I can't do anything about the weight, however, has caused me some stress. For instance, I recently picked up a pre-loaded trailer from a shipper; the trailer was supposed to be filled to 45,000lbs, but it was closer to 46,000. While taking this load from Pennsylvania to California, I only had to scale once at a weigh station... I crept along the lane very slowly, letting a long line of trucks build up behind me. When I got onto the scale, I braked harder than was necessary, putting the liquid into motion (in this case, 'surge' was a good thing!) The weigh station staff didn't have time to allow the surging liquid to settle to get an accurate weight, which would have taken 4-5 mins., so I immediately got the green light to continue back onto the interstate.

I see box trailers swaying in the breeze during windy conditions; yes, I feel the wind too, but my trailer has a much lower profile and is more turbulence-friendly with the curved sides of my trailer.

Familiarity: this is what I know. I've developed a comfort zone now, and don't see myself leaving it. And besides, the 53' dry vans and reefers just seem so dang big!

I get mixed reception at the shippers/consignees/tank washes... I'm always early, which has been appreciated and sometimes gets me loaded early and on my way. While the majority of consignees are happy to see me, I have been to a few that weren't expecting me, or didn't have room for my product and turned me away. That's probably not worth mentioning, it's happened less than 10 times out of hundreds of deliveries. A benefit of working for a large company like Schneider is that I have not experienced the wait time mentioned by CWC; we have an abundance of trailers at all of the tank washes. In fact, I've never had to wait to get one cleaned. Today, for instance, I dropped my dirty trailer, drove around and found the clean & empty assigned to me for my next load, hooked up to it, and gone. That's the way it usually works out. On occasion the assigned trailer I need is still dirty, so I call in and simply get another trailer assigned, one that is ready to go.

I never let the contents of my trailers bother me... the really harmful HAZMAT chemicals, the lethal stuff, I don't touch anyway. In those cases I'm always instructed to just stay in my truck. I've been issued all the PPE I need to off-load the milder HAZMAT chemicals, the flammables and less corrosive materials. Additionally, the chemical suit works great as a raincoat, and the FR coveralls help keep me warm when the temps are well below freezing.

So that's about all for now... just realized what time it is and I need to get some sleep. More for later. Thanks for starting this CWC!

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.

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".

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Amish country's Comment
member avatar

A lot of what has been said is true of the dry side as well. I dont haul food grade so dont need to have the tank washed constantly and being local I use the same tank daily. Makes it easier knowing exactly what your working with and how it unloads.

Customers always know your coming and typically dont keep you waiting. 90% of the time I'm unloading within 15 minutes of getting there. I was just talking to another driver about rude people and how we never see that side of the industry. Customers are always happy we're there because they NEED the product. Without it they cant make animal feed, purify water, create electricity or handle waste.

Benefit over liquid is there is no sloth or surge. Once its loaded that's where it stays for the most part.

Days are long, 12-14 hours but that's my choice to run my clock. But I am always doing something between driving, loading or unloading. If I had to wait 2 hours just to get loaded I would go crazy! I'm always loaded in under an hour and spend an hour to hour and half at the customer. Also, I control how fast it unloads.

Backing can definitely get interesting. Sometimes your backing down an alley or you might have to run the hose down a hill. Either way as long as you're within 30 ft you can unload.

I love it and will probably never do anything else. Plus 53 ft would be so long now!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Big Scott (CFI Driver/Tra's Comment
member avatar

Thanks guys. This is an excellent thread and should be required reading for any future tankers.

Cwc's Comment
member avatar

Totally spaced the lack of sliding the tandems. Along with being able to fit almost anywhere.

I'll tell on myself since it applies to the above. You know most people can't tell a difference between a fuel tanker and a food grade at a gas station... this comes in pretty handy when your way off the interstate and out of hours. Yes I did. And nobody said a word to me.

Thanks guys. This is an excellent thread and should be required reading for any future tankers.

This is why I started it. We have how to everything... But tanker. And I get it that it's not where you start but like I said in the beginning. When I was thinking about making the switch I couldn't find much.

I still don't really know anything about cryogenics, fuel, or milk hauling. They all seem kinda cool and different in their own way. I'm not to sure I'd wanna haul fuel but it would be different to hear about them all.

Chemicals are out for me... I get irritated when I go to places like Dupont Chemical division and they tell me I've gotta have long sleeves. So the thought of wearing a full on suit... takes that one off the list.

Heavy gloves and a face shield for cryogenics... Might be doable for the right price😎

I'm just curious about milk cause I deliver to a few places that always have milk trucks in the bays next to me.

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".

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Cwc's Comment
member avatar

I guess nobody else really mentioned that we actually get to unload. I like getting out of the truck and working for the most part.😁 And flatbedders are going to groan that I said hooking up a few hoses is work but hey.. It gets me out of the seat and I'm not about to tarp anything.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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