Oil tanker trucks are designed to transport liquids or gases over long distances. Tanker trucks perform crucial services such as delivering loads of fuel to gas stations and more. Unfortunately, the design of oil tanker trucks makes them particularly dangerous if involved in a collision, with the potential to cause an explosion and fire.
Tanker trucks are challenging to operate. They are susceptible to overturning due to their high center of gravity and the fact that the liquid cargo inside the tank may shift suddenly if the vehicle rounds a curve too quickly. Commercial truck drivers require additional training and certification to drive a cargo tanker truck. Even so, many truck accidents occur near the oil fields.
If you’ve been injured in an accident involving an oil tanker truck or fuel truck, contact the experienced Texas truck accident lawyers at Herrman & Herrman, P.L.LC. With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, our team has the training and knowledge to get you the compensation you deserve. We have successfully handled more than 20,000 cases, and we’ve helped our clients get millions in compensation to cover the costs of their injuries. Every case has unique factors.
Our attorneys are ready to help you evaluate your legal options and seek answers and justice. Call our office or reach out to us online for a free case review today.
What Is an Oil Tanker Truck?
After oil is pumped from the ground, it needs to be transported to and from a refinery. While some oil is transported via pipelines or on ships, much of it is moved in specially designed trucks. These trucks are known as oil tanker trucks, cargo tankers, or fuel trucks.
What distinguishes an oil tanker truck from other kinds of large trucks is the design of the truck itself. Fuel trucks generally only carry oil and gasoline products in either liquid or gaseous form because there are certain requirements for transporting these flammable materials.
The trailer of an oil tanker truck is a large cylinder that may be divided into several smaller storage compartments, depending on how many loads the truck is designed to carry. The cylinder may be pressurized, depending on whether the cargo is being transported as a liquid or a gas.
The nature of transporting liquid cargo is part of what makes fuel trucks so potentially dangerous. If the cargo container is only partially full of liquid, the fuel inside will slosh around as the truck moves. This shifting of the liquid cargo can change the truck’s center of gravity, making it unwieldy and difficult to control. Fuel truck drivers need to exercise extreme caution when driving because if the truck rolls over and the cargo spills, it can catch fire and cause severe injuries or deaths.
Who Can Drive an Oil Tanker Truck?
To help minimize the chance of catastrophic accidents, regulators require oil tanker truck drivers to meet certain standards before they’re allowed to handle these large, potentially dangerous vehicles.
An oil tanker truck driver needs to obtain a commercial driver’s license or CDL. The requirements for a CDL vary from state to state. In Texas, anyone who wants a CDL will first need a valid standard driver’s license, then they’ll need to take a knowledge test and driving test. CDL applicants also need to pass a basic vision test and a medical exam.
After obtaining their CDL, anyone wishing to drive an oil tanker truck will need to add two endorsements to their license. The first is a tanker truck endorsement, which allows commercial drivers to transport liquid materials. Fuel truck drivers also need an endorsement for handling hazardous materials.
Fuel truck drivers have to complete an additional test to get the tank truck endorsement and the hazardous materials endorsement. Drivers will also need to undergo state and federal background checks to obtain their hazardous materials endorsement. However, neither the tank truck endorsement nor the hazardous materials endorsement requires an additional driving test. Tanker trucks that transport hazardous materials have higher liability insurance requirements as well because of the potential damage a hazardous materials spill can cause if the truck crashes.
Common Causes of Oil Tanker Truck Accidents
Oil tanker truck accidents occur for a number of reasons. Many of the causes are related to driver error. In some truck accidents, the driver is not solely responsible for causing the crash. For instance, a fuel tanker driver’s employer may be partially to blame for an accident if the company did not properly screen the driver during the hiring process or failed to remove a dangerous driver with a bad driving record from the road.
Some of the most common causes of oil tanker truck accidents include:
- Speeding – Truck drivers are often under intense pressure to meet deadlines. This can make them take risks such as driving over the speed limit to meet a delivery deadline. Speeding makes it harder for fuel truck drivers to handle their vehicles. The faster a tanker truck is moving, the less time a truck driver has to react to avoid an accident situation, and the greater distance the tanker needs to stop.
- Driving while fatigued – To make sure truck drivers are adequately rested before getting behind the wheel, federal regulators require drivers to follow Hours of Service guidelines. These rules require truck drivers to take breaks after being on the road for a certain number of hours. Unfortunately, drivers and their employers may ignore these rules in the interest of making faster deliveries. When truck drivers stay behind the wheel too long, their judgment becomes impaired, and their reflexes are slowed. A fatigued driver may be slower to recognize and react to an emergency situation.
- Distracted driving – If a fuel truck driver is distracted by talking on the phone, adjusting a navigation system, eating or drinking, listening to music, or daydreaming, the driver may not react promptly to hazards on the road. Anything that takes a driver’s focus off the road or their hands off the wheel greatly increases the chance of an accident.
- Drivers who are inexperienced or unqualified – It’s crucial that trucking companies employ qualified drivers to handle tanker trucks. If a company hires a driver who is inexperienced or doesn’t have the right license endorsements, that driver is much more likely to cause an accident. The employer and the driver may be liable after an accident.
- Drivers failing to watch their blind spots – As is the case with all large trucks, tanker truck drivers need to keep track of vehicles moving in their blind spots. If a driver is inattentive or inexperienced, they may change lanes or merge without properly checking a blind spot, causing an accident in which the truck sideswipes another vehicle or forces it off the road.
- Improperly secured cargo – Oil tanker truck drivers need to be especially careful about how their cargo is secured to minimize the chance of sloshing. Fuel leaks can cause an accident if the fuel catches on fire or makes the road slippery.
- Mechanical defects – If a tanker truck’s brakes, steering system, or other critical components fail, it can be impossible for the driver to handle the vehicle safely. The manufacturer of the faulty component may be liable for the accident.
- Bad weather – Precipitation on the road can make it harder for truck drivers to navigate safely. Heavy rain or fog can also obscure a driver’s vision, making it harder for them to see hazards in their path.
How We Can Help After an Oil Tanker Truck Accident
Commercial truck accidents such as fuel truck accidents are more complicated to investigate than other kinds of vehicle accidents. There are more potentially liable parties in a truck accident and more at stake due to the higher amounts of insurance that fuel trucks carry and the greater chance of severe or permanent injuries. This is why it’s so important to select an experienced fuel truck accident lawyer to handle your case.
While you recover from your injuries, our attorneys at Herrman & Herrman can investigate your claim. We’ll comb through the evidence to find everyone who may be liable for your injuries, including the truck driver, the company that hired the driver, and the company that owns the tanker.
We’ll document your injuries and financial losses from the accident and submit a demand letter for a full settlement that reflects the extent of your injuries. We’ll handle all communications with the insurers and work aggressively to negotiate a just settlement.
If the insurer refuses to offer a fair settlement, we’ll discuss your options and be ready to take your case to court and present your case to a Texas jury.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer
Our attorneys at Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C., understand what is at stake for you after a serious truck accident. Our attorneys are experienced handling truck accident cases. We handle personal injury cases with a contingency fee arrangement so you won’t have any out-of-pocket costs. When you hire our firm, you won’t owe us any legal fees unless we help you obtain compensation.
Get your free initial consultation by calling our office or visiting our contact page.