If you’ve ever dropped back or changed lanes on the interstate to create some distance between your vehicle and a tanker truck, you’re not alone. Those placards can be intimidating, with their ominous symbols suggesting their contents are ready to blow up, catch fire, or poison you at the first sign of trouble.
In fact, tanker trucks are more dangerous than many other vehicles on the road. Here’s why.
What Makes Tanker Trucks Dangerous?
First, there are the elements that make any large commercial truck more dangerous than a car or light truck. The simple fact that they’re so much bigger and so much heavier than the other vehicles on the road means your typical passenger vehicle isn’t likely to fare well in a collision. The size and weight of large trucks also means they’re harder to maneuver and require a significantly greater distance to stop.
But, that’s only the beginning. Tanker trucks also present specific risks, mostly because of the materials they carry.
Tanker Trucks are More Likely to Roll Over
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 1,300 tanker trucks roll over on the road each year. Across the same time period, there are about 500 rollover accidents involving all other commercial truck types combined. The greater risk is largely attributable to shifting contents. While shifting weight can create problems for any vehicle, and more so for large commercial vehicles, tanker trucks present special challenges. Liquid obviously shifts easily, and can’t be restrained the way boxes and other types of cargo can. That means more complex methods, such as segmenting the tank or using baffles–separator panels with holes in them to minimize sloshing.
Those safety measures can reduce the risk, since FMCSA estimates that well over half of tanker truck rollovers happen because of sloshing. But, not every type of cargo can be controlled this way. For example, baffles typically can’t be used with milk and other food-grade liquids, due to the difficulty of thoroughly cleaning them.
Handling a Tanker Truck Requires Special Attention
The rollover risk means tanker truck drivers must be especially careful on the road. Abrupt braking causes liquid to surge, and turning or even taking a curve or exit ramp at too high a speed can increase sloshing–and therefore, the risk of rollover. Often, the posted speed limit is too fast. Given the risks of sudden movements, it’s no surprise FMCSA says distracted driving is a leading cause of tanker truck accidents.
But, a greater likelihood of rollover accidents isn’t the only thing that makes tanker trucks more dangerous. The other is what happens to the contents of the tank in a collision or rollover.
Tanker Truck Contents Can Create Far-Reaching Hazards
Earlier this year, the Georgia Department of Transportation had to resurface a section of I-85 after a tanker truck accident left the roadway slick with liquid that was difficult to remove and created a hazard on the road. While the accident illustrates how tanker truck accidents involving spills can create more significant complications, the cost and inconvenience associated with this spill were minor in comparison with some tanker truck accidents.
This spring, for example, a tanker truck spill of about 3,000 gallons of fuel resulted in an emergency Hazmat clean-up and forced the evacuation of nearby gas stations and a daycare center. The previous year, another tanker truck carrying fuel burst into flames, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel and triggering explosions from nearby manhole covers.
In short, tanker truck spills and leaks can create significant hazards that go beyond the initial crash, such as fires, explosions, and the release of toxic fumes or liquids. This also means that the pool of people who may be eligible for compensation after a serious tanker truck accident may be larger than in a typical motor vehicle accident situation. That’s because a toxic spill may impact people who weren’t directly involved in the accident, including those who are stuck on the road during and after the incident and even nearby homeowners or others who are within range of any harmful chemicals.
What to Do After a Tanker Truck Accident
If you’re involved in an accident with a tanker truck, you’ll want to take the same steps as you would after any Atlanta car accident. But, there are some qualifications and special precautions. For example, if there are hazardous chemicals present, it likely won’t be safe to take photographs or gather other information you might otherwise collect at the scene. First responders will likely remove you from the area as quickly as possible. If they haven’t yet arrived, assess the situation and take safety precautions as necessary.
A tanker truck spill may also raise special medical considerations. If you’ve been exposed to potential toxins, it’s especially important to seek medical assessment and to be alert for any symptoms that may emerge in the days following the accident.
Commercial trucking accidents in general are more complicated than basic car accident cases, so it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including victims of motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice and more. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.