Tanker truck driving is a unique niche in the transportation industry. It involves driving specialized trucks that are equipped with a tank specifically designed for transporting liquefied loads. However, tanker trucks can also be used to haul non-hazardous materials such as bulk foods and dry bulk products such as cement or plastic pellets.
Tanker drivers are required to have a commercial driver license (CDL). A CDL Class A driver license with Tanker endorsement is required to drive a semi-trailer. A CDL Class B license is allowed for those driving small tanker trucks. A Haxmat endorsement is required if the driver will be transporting chemicals, petroleum products, gases, hazardous wastes or other hazardous materials.
You can obtain a Haxmat endorsement after completing your truck driving training. It simply involves taking and passing the hazmat portion of the test. It is recommended that you obtain this endorsement at the same time you get your CDL. It advisable to have this endorsement even if you don’t think you’ll ever want to haul hazmat loads because you could change your mind at some point during your career. Consequently, if at a future date you decide you want to haul hazmat loads you will already be qualified to do so.
Tanker drivers must deal with the challenges of all truck drivers plus those that are unique to tanker driving. Tanker drivers are required to have knowledge and be able to comply with all safety procedures. Additionally, they have responsibilities unique to those of tanker drivers. These include:
1. The ability to safely operate a tractor/trailer/tanker filled with liquid on a highway.
2. The ability to lift and attach the fuel hose to load fuel into the tanker.
3. The ability to lift and attach the fuel hose to unload fuel from the tanker into the fuel facility.
For those not familiar with tanker driving here are some basics. The design of the truck is no different from other trucks and semi-trailers on the road. However, the trailer is actually a tank as opposed to a box trailer. These are the trucks and trailers that you see hauling fuel to service stations around the country.
Hauling loads in tankers requires specialized training. Products hauled can be liquid measures or chemicals. Tanker driving involves the transporting hazardous or non-hazardous items. Hazardous loads are often referred to as HazMat loads. These loads are very dangerous and must be handled with extreme care.
It may appear to you that tanker driving is difficult. However, there is no need to be intimidated by tanker driving. Trucking companies typically provide additional on the job training necessary to transport these loads safely. Trucking companies want their drivers safe and the freight delivered safely. All you need is the appropriate Class A or B CDL license depending upon the type of truck you will operate. Training and experience will allow you to move forward with confidence.
There are pros and cons to tanker driving. One advantage of tanker driving is the pay scale. Tanker drivers earn more money than dry van drivers. Also, another advantage is that many of these loads are local or regional routes. This allows for drivers to have more home time. Many tanker drivers are home in time for dinner with the family most days of the week. This is vastly different from longhaul drivers who may get home-time a few times a month.
A disadvantage of tanker driving is the extra responsibility you entail when you haul flammable or other hazardous materials. Some tanker drivers have indicated that tanker driving is not as easy as it may seem when transporting liquids due to elements of physics at play. Liquids are constantly moving around the tank as you are driving. This can cause you to experience something like an extra push and delayed jerk at a stop sign from the momentum of stopping and going.
Hazardous weather conditions increase the risk of vehicle accidents. Inclement weather conditions such as snow, rain, icy roads, etc.require extra caution when driving in these conditions. Tanker driving also requires more labor as opposed to dry van freight because you will be responsible for loading, unloading, moving hoses, and much more.
The trucking industry provides many opportunities in truck driving. There are several major carriers offering tanker driving jobs such as Schneider National. Consider the pros and cons of tanker driving before deciding this is the career path you would like to take.