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Tanker Truck Accidents

tanker truck

Millions of trucks are used to transport goods around the country, and about 25 percent of them are tanker trucks. While many transport bulk liquids, many of which are nontoxic, other items can be flammable or hazardous. Although any accident with a tanker truck can result in serious injuries and fatalities not only from the collision but from spilled contents in the roadway, those transporting hazardous substances can end up causing a fire or explosion that can impact the entire area and result in serious injuries

Common Items Carried by Tanker Trucks

Most tanker trucks haul items that are used in the food and beverage industries. These include:

  • Dairy products such as milk
  • Flour and grain
  • Food-grade canola, olive, and vegetable oils
  • Fruit juices
  • Animal fat
  • Chocolate
  • Sugar alcohols used for diabetic products
  • Corn syrup
Hazardous Cargos Hauled by Tanker Trucks

Hazardous cargoes are a real danger when a tanker truck is involved in an accident. In addition, the tanks are often constructed of steel or aluminum, which adds to the vehicle’s weight. A vehicle hauling hazardous cargo is much more dangerous because of threats added by its products. Items hauled that are considered hazardous include:

  • Gasoline, diesel, and ethanol
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Oxidizing substances such as peroxide, bromine, and perchloric acid
  • Paints and dyes
  • Tar and oil 
  • Corrosive materials such as acids
  • Radioactive compounds
Tanker Truck Dangers

Although an accident involving a tanker truck can cause traumatic injuries and fatalities just as any collision with a big vehicle would, one that carries hazardous materials can be much worse. Some of those added dangers include:

  • Explosions: An accident at high speed can create a spark that can cause combustible or flammable substances to ignite. This can result in catastrophic injuries or burns that cause permanent disfigurement to those in the vehicle and drivers and passengers in other nearby cars and trucks. In some cases, nearby homes and businesses are affected.
  • Fires: Fire is a high likelihood when a tanker truck is involved in a collision, even if it is not carrying flammable cargo. This is because trucks carrying food-grade products can be pressurized using oxygen. Because of this, a fire can occur, resulting in serious burns and disfigurement.
  • Accidents caused by sloshing: Tanker trucks are more likely to experience a rollover, or the driver can lose control if the cargo they are transporting is a liquid. This is because the liquid cargo can start to slosh around, eventually causing the vehicle to become unstable.
  • Leaking chemicals: Chemicals leaked from a tanker truck can cause eye, lung, skin irritation, and burns. Scarring, disfigurement, and lifelong disability can result. Too much exposure can result in a fatality.
  • Spillage and leaks: Tanker truck accidents commonly involve a leak or spill. This can endanger others sharing the roadway, local businesses, and homes. If the spill or leak goes into the ground or a storm drain, it can cause contamination of the water supply in the area. However, not all leaks or spills are caused by accidents. In some cases, the holding tank may be defective, or the driver does not seal it properly.
  • Non-hazardous spills: Even a non-hazardous spill can place motorists at risk of an accident. Some happen because drivers come upon a spill suddenly and try to perform evasive maneuvers. Others who attempt to drive through a spill can lose control of their car, causing a multiple-vehicle collision. 
  • Slosh and surge accidents: Load size can lead to some tanker truck accidents. A driver with a partial load can have the liquid inside slosh and surge, resulting in a rollover. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, around 63 percent of all tanker truck rollovers are due to this problem.
Watch YouTube Video: Tanker Truck Crashes and Burns on Indiana Highway. In the video below, a tanker truck caused a huge fire after it overturned on a highway in Indianapolis.

Common Reasons for Tanker Truck Accidents

Drivers of tanker trucks get into the same types of accidents as passenger vehicles and for the same reasons. Some of the more common reasons a tanker truck instigates a traffic collision include:

  • Drivers without enough experience to handle a tanker truck can cause an accident.
  • Speed causes around half of all accidents by tanker trucks.
  • Poor maintenance of the vehicle can lead to a tanker truck accident, including worn tires, bad brakes, and steering problems.
  • Distracted driving is a common problem with truckers, as it is with other motorists. A trucker who isn’t keeping his/her eyes on the roadway and staying vigilant can cause a serious traffic collision.
  • Fatigued driving: A trucker who spends long hours on the road can become overly tired, even with mandates for scheduled rest breaks. Fatigued driving can slow the reflexes and prevent the trucker from being alert to their surroundings.
Government Regulations

The FMCSA issued regulations aimed at making the transport of hazardous materials safe. It is required that tanks be properly sealed and secured before the trucker starts out on their route. Signs and labels must also be shown on the tanker to warn other motorists if the cargo being hauled is dangerous. If the truck driver or company fails in their duty to warn motorists and provide safe transportation, an accident can happen. 

Maintenance is another issue. Dereliction of duty in performing needed maintenance on a tanker truck means that brakes can fail, the vehicle can have a blowout and other dangers that can lead to a crash. Vehicles must be inspected each time the truck goes out on the road, and failure to do so is a violation.

Seeking Advice From a Lawyer

Investigating a tanker truck accident involves both state and federal regulations, so it is important to obtain the advice of an experienced lawyer in this area to obtain personal injury damages. Our legal team has successfully handled many accidents of this type. If a tanker truck caused your injuries due to negligence, you might be able to obtain fair compensation. This can pay for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and the time you lost at work.

Sacramento Tanker Truck Accident Lawyer

My name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Sacramento tanker truck accident lawyer. If a collision with a tanker truck caused your injuries, we have free, friendly advice to offer you when you call us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. We can also be reached online.

Since 1982, our law firm has helped many Northern Californians to get the compensation they deserve for all types of traffic collisions, cases that involve wrongful deaths, and others.

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