When an accident involving a tanker truck occurs, there is a greater likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities because of the dangerous cargo these big rigs haul. Liquids, gasses, and dry bulk cargo can cause these vehicles to be especially susceptible to fires, explosions, and leaks that cause chemical burns and toxic exposures. As with all truck accidents, pedestrians and other motorists bear the brunt of the injuries and therefore must maintain extreme vigilance when the in presence of tanker trucks. Nationwide, the three most common contributing factors in tanker truck accidents include driver errors, vehicle condition, and load size.
Tanker Accident Causes
Tanker trucks that haul liquids are at high-risk of rolling over when the cargo becomes unbalanced. Whether it’s gasoline, milk, or liquid propane, liquid consumables can dramatically alter the vehicle’s center of gravity. As the vehicle maneuvers to change lanes, go around a corner, or make a turn, this can cause the vehicle to tip without warning. The greater the amount of liquid in the tank, the greater the risk of the vehicle becoming unstable when it conducts even basic maneuvers at any speed.
Truck drivers have a responsibility to know what is happening in their tank at all times. However, many fail in this responsibility and lose focus or become so drowsy they don’t notice. It is estimated that 20% of tanker rollovers are a result of these factors.
Other causes of tanker truck accidents include driving too fast for conditions, failing to properly maintain the vehicle, and failure to properly maintain the brakes and other control systems. Truck drivers may also be inadequately trained to handle the vehicle which can lead them to overcorrect and make other errors that can contribute to causing a truck accident.
Toxic Exposures and Fire Risks
Tanker trucks can also leak if the seals and hatches are not properly maintained and secured. Tanker leaks can cause toxic exposure to fumes, liquid chemicals, and hazardous dry goods.
When a leak occurs involving a flammable material such as gasoline or diesel fuel, there is a significant risk of fire or explosion that can cause fatal injuries. Often, the source of ignition is from the hot engine or brake components of one of the vehicles involved in the wreck. Anyone in the vicinity of the truck when it erupts into flames can suffer thermal burn injuries.