Thousands of tanker trucks cross the United States each day. The heavy-duty vehicles feature a cab connected to a cylinder-shaped trailer, known as a tank, that carries dry goods, liquids, chemicals, and liquid gases. Despite the trucks' vital services, the unique dangers of tanker truck accidents are unpredictable and inevitable.
Hazards of Sharing the Road with Tanker Trucks
Like other types of tractor-trailers, tanker trucks pose many well-documented dangers, including the following.
Larger Blind Spots
Tanker trucks have expansive blind spots on all four sides of the cab and trailer. Because of this, drivers can quickly lose sight of fellow motorists and sideswipe other cars while trying to change lanes.
Gas tanker capacity can exceed 11,000 gallons of cargo, dwarfing other vehicles that travel alongside the truck. The excessive weight results in significant hazards, especially if you experience a tanker accident. In addition, truck drivers need substantially more space to maneuver their vehicles than other drivers, making it more difficult to avoid cars or objects on the road.
Longer Hours on the Road
While federal regulations mandate that truck drivers take a rest period after every 11 consecutive hours on the road, truck drivers still spend long shifts behind the wheel. The strain of driving can result in issues such as:
- Road haze
- Highway hypnosis
- Substance abuse
- Hungover drivers
Inadequate Driver Training
Tractor-trailers and tanker trucks transport more cargo than airplanes or trains. Despite the busy schedules of trucking companies, the freight industry has a substantial turnover rate and continually hires new drivers who may not have the knowledge, expertise, or reactions they need to respond safely in challenging circumstances.
Tanker Truck Unique Accident Dangers
Tanker trucks and tractor-trailers share many dangers. Even so, heavy-duty tanker trucks carrying high volumes of cargo pose several unique hazards, such as the following.
Unlike equipment or freight, tanker truck drivers can’t secure the liquid cargo in their trailers. As a result, it can shift or slosh while driving and create dangerous imbalances or rollovers.
Any accident with a tanker truck can have serious consequences. However, if you crash into a tanker truck carrying hazardous materials, you could potentially experience burns, scarring, infections, and chronic health conditions.
Tanker trucks often transport combustible chemicals to labs or manufacturing plants. In the event of a tanker truck crash, a minor accident could quickly become explosive, resulting in chemical burns, brain injuries, and significant physical trauma.
Possibilities That Make Tanker Truck Accidents So Dangerous
Most drivers know that an oil truck accident can result in a fire. That said, even food products can ignite during a tanker truck collision, placing both the driver and the victims at risk for burns or chronic health conditions.
Like fires, explosions are also highly likely following a tanker or fuel truck accident. The flammable cargo and pressurized cylinders can ignite on sudden impact, resulting in powerful explosions and life-threatening burns.
When tanker trucks are not carrying a full load, the movement of the liquid cargo can result in sloshing. Sudden stops, quick movements, or sharp turns can intensify the sloshing motion and shift the truck’s center of gravity, causing rollovers or loss of control.
Chemical Leaks and Spills
Because tanker trucks often carry corrosive chemicals or hazardous materials, leaks and spills pose a severe threat to the driver and other motorists, as well as the local environment. If a tanker accident occurs, the spillage can release toxic fumes into the air or send substances pouring across the road.
Tanker accidents may expose victims to corrosive chemicals, resulting in chronic health problems, scarring, and disfigurement.
Tanker trucks are more likely to roll over due to the sloshing, liquid nature of their cargo. While truck drivers often walk away from a rollover accident, the victims in other vehicles may suffer severe injuries, brain damage, or death.
Avoiding the Dangers of Tanker Truck Accidents
No matter how safely you drive your car, you may not always be able to prevent a tanker truck collision. However, you can take several precautions to help avoid the devastation of a tanker accident.
1. Understand Tanker Truck Blind Spots
Truck drivers have four blind spots around their vehicles. Familiarize yourself with these dangerous zones, avoid lingering in these areas, and find ways to safely maneuver out of blind spots while traveling alongside trucks.
2. Pay Attention to Tanker Truck Drivers
Though truck drivers are required to take breaks during shifts, they may experience fatigue or road haze while driving. When driving near the vehicles, keep an eye out for:
- Erratic behavior
- Trucks struggling to stay in their lane
- Tanker truck signals
3. Safely Share the Road
If you find yourself traveling alongside a tanker truck, ensure that you leave plenty of room between your vehicles. Try to avoid rushing or pushing around the truck and fall back before turning or changing lanes.
What to Do If You Are Involved in a Tanker Truck Accident
If you experience trauma from tanker truck accidents, it’s critical to follow certain steps to stay safe and receive the medical and legal support you need. In the event of an accident, you should always:
- Contact the police or 911.
- Listen to the dispatcher’s instructions.
- Remain at the scene of the accident.
- Take pictures of the crash if it’s safe to do so.
- Seek medical care.
Finally, you should always contact an experienced tanker truck accident attorney. At Brain Injury Law of Seattle, our team of attorneys has more than 25 years of experience fighting for the victims of tanker truck crashes.
Regardless of whether you’ve just had an accident or have already begun your legal journey, don't hesitate to get in touch with our team at Brain Injury Law of Seattle today. Schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help you reclaim your life after a traumatic injury.