Tanker Truck Rollover Accidents

Tanker truck accidents can be devastating. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association states 78% of tanker truck rollovers are due to errors made by the operator of the tanker truck. Depending upon what cargo the truck is hauling, the truck may explode when there is a significant impact either with another vehicle or due to the vehicle jackknifing.

What Do Tanker Trucks Carry?

Tanker trucks are commercial motor vehicles that transport liquid, gaseous, and/or dry bulk loads. Liquid materials may be hazardous substances such as gasoline, wastewater or chemicals, or non-hazardous substances like water, milk, or other consumables. Gasses typically are hazardous such as nitrogen, hydrogen, propane, butane, or other natural gasses.  Dry bulk cargo may include consumables, chemicals, agricultural products and waste, manufacturing byproducts and waste, minerals, and other loose bulk items. Some examples include:

  • Dry fertilizer
  • Sand, gravel, or dirt
  • Sawdust
  • Coal or bauxite
  • Plastic pellets or other synthetics
  • Seeds, nuts, or grains

Smaller tanker trucks may weigh 3,000 lbs. or less while the largest in the United States weigh around 11,600 lbs.  Most are easy to recognize by their cylindrical trailers or “tank” on the back.

Tanker Truck Training and Requirements

One thing every commercial truck accident attorney looks at when a rollover occurs is whether the driver was properly trained. Tanker truck accidents present an extra challenge because the qualifications are often determined by what the tanker hauls.  Thus, it is important to under the endorsements that drivers are required to carry to demonstrate their qualifications.

The Tanker Endorsement

Not every truck driver is qualified to operate a tanker truck.  In addition to the standard Commercial Drivers License required for truck drivers, tanker truck drivers must also obtain a tanker endorsement. This requirement applies not only to traditional tankers but also other types of trucks operating like tankers such as flatbeds, dry vans, box trucks, and refrigerated trucks if:

  • The cargo includes liquid or gaseous individual containers larger than 119-gallon capacity.
  • The containers are loaded, not empty.
  • The total combined volume in the containers 1,000 gallons.

The Hazmat Endorsement

In addition to a tanker endorsement, if the tanker operator plans to haul certain materials regulated by State and Federal government, such as hazardous materials, then he/she must also obtain a Hazmat Endorsement on his/her CDL. Those materials include many enumerated materials and substances that include many toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, explosives, flammables, combustibles, and other dangerous solids, liquids, and gasses. It is particularly important that tanker truck drivers be educated in the materials they are carrying and, in the ways, to minimize their adverse effects in the event of an accident.

What Driver Errors Cause Truck Rollovers?

Actions that can contribute to rollovers and jackknifes include:

  • Failing to keep the tanker truck a single lane of traffic.
  • Failing to maintain a slow speed on wet or icy roads.
  • Operating the tanker truck while being tired, fatigued, or drowsy.
  • Making unnecessary sudden movements that affect the speed or direction of the tanker truck.
  • The sudden application of the brakes.
  • Over-correcting after allowing wheels to leave the roadway surface.

Most tanker truck roll-overs occur on straight highways due to overcorrection or sudden wheel movement. Only a small percentage occurs on exit ramps.

Rollovers and Company Negligence

In some rollover accidents, the negligence of the company may be the cause of the collision.  Failure to maintain brakes and failure to replace worn tires are major contributing factors to rollovers.  Trucking companies have an obligation to perform maintenance of their equipment before it is driven on public roadways. If your loved one was the victim of a rollover accident due to a trucking company’s failure to maintain the braking system and/or tires, call for a free consultation.