Tanker Truck Collisions
by Scott Blumenshine
A Lake Zurich, Illinois tanker truck driver who was hauling a heavy load of oil caused a tragic fiery crash on Interstate 65 between Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana. He and four other people perished when the vehicles burst into flames. The tanker truck rammed into three other vehicles which had slowed their speed as legally required in a construction zone.
Among the dead were a mother who was driving one of the cars and two of her young children who were passengers. In addition to the five who died, two others were injured. The road was closed for hours while workers cleaned up the debris.
Earlier this year, a tanker truck carrying a hazardous chemical turned over on Interstate 57 near Champaign, Illinois when the driver was driving too fast. More than 100 residents were forced out of their homes due to concerns about dangerous vapors. The highway was closed for most of the day while authorities ensured that the chemical had been safely cleaned up and the damaged big-rig removed.
A tanker truck is one that carries large amounts of liquids, including oil, gasoline and other dangerous chemicals. Tankers also carry non-combustible but still problematic loads of milk, cooking oil, and similar product. The weight and nature of the loads create problems unique to the tanker trucking industry.
Unique Dangers Posed by Tanker Trucks
All semi-trucks transporting goods pose dangers due to their size and weight which makes maneuverability a challenge. Additional dangers are uniquely posed by tanker trucks. For example, tanker trucks:
- Easily roll over. Tankers have a high center of gravity and studies show that they have a tendency to tip even when traveling at the posted speed. Drivers must be exceptionally diligent to not just rely on the posted speed limit, but use the safe speed for all circumstances including the load in the tanker. Speed modification is particularly important when going around curves.
- Are more susceptible to explosions and starting fires. The contents of tanker trucks are often flammable. An impact may cause flammable liquid cargo to explode, resulting in a fire that engulfs occupants and spread to other vehicles and the surrounding area. People have been known to survive the impact only to die in the flames from the explosion.
- Have content that will “slosh” and make it difficult for the driver to control the vehicle. Tankers that carry liquid cargo are never completely filled. Liquids expand when they are warm and different types of liquids expand at differing amounts. If the tanker is carrying liquid cargo, since it is not full, when the brakes are applied or a turn is made, the liquid moves within the tanker. This is more pronounced when the driver stops, veers around a curve or makes a turn. The sloshing contents can cause the tanker and tractor to become unbalanced and the driver may lose control of the truck.
- Are subject to a surge which affects stopping time and distance. Similar to slosh that occurs when the truck turns, a surge occurs when the brakes are applied. The liquid goes back and forth and when the wave comes forward, it can propel even a stopped truck forward.
Tanker Truck Safety Rules Violations
Some basic safety rules that tanker truck owners and drivers must follow include:
- Compliance with legal load limits by knowing how much liquid to load depending on the specific liquid and how much it will expand.
- Use slow and smooth maneuvers. Quick stops and slamming on the brakes must be avoided in order to avoid the deleterious effects of surge and slosh.
- Use a greater following distance due to prolonged slow to stop times.
- Follow speed restrictions that take into account the weight and nature of the load.
- Keep logs of driving and resting times. There are limits to how many hours a tanker truck driver can drive and how many hours they must rest in each 24 hour period of time.
Businesses that put tanker trucks on public roadways to transport goods know the risk of danger that is involved with unsafe loading and driving. Failure to follow safety rules exposes drivers and owners to liability for damages caused by an accident. If you were injured in a tanker truck accident, or someone you loved was killed, contact the personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Meyer & Blumenshine for a free consultation.