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Could Design Issues Contribute to Emergency Water Tanker Rollovers?

Mobile water supply apparatus tanker trucks bring water and emergency personnel and water to emergency fire scenes. While these trucks are vital to prevent fatalities, burn injuries, and other serious injuries, these vehicles also have a high accident rate. Some industry experts believe that the very design of these tanker trucks could be contributing to the trucking accidents.

Many emergency use tanker trucks are in fact converted trucks which were once used for another purpose. Many industry experts note that there is a high cost to not creating customized tanker trucks better suited to emergency response. The Safe Operation of Fire Tankers reports that many emergency tanker truck accidents involve trucks which were converted after being used as fuel tankers. In many cases, experts note that the chassis of the trucks cannot hold the amount of water emergency tanker trucks need to carry, and this excessive pressure can contribute to accidents.

In fact, emergency tanker trucks are unusually heavy and place a great burden on any vehicle design not created exclusively for water. Gasoline weighs 5.6 pounds per gallon, while oil (fuel) weighs 7.12 pounds per gallon. In contrast, water weighs 8.33 pounds per gallon. This means that a water tanker converted from a gasoline tanker is expected to carry about 23, 324 pounds of water (for a 2,800-gallon tanker) when the truck was designed to carry 15, 680 of gasoline. In addition, emergency water tanker trucks also often carry additional life saving equipment, pumps, and emergency personnel, increasing the weight even more.

Many trucks used for consumer goods such as milk or eggs are designed to allow for easy cleaning of the tanker area. The emphasis is on making the inside of the tanker sterile, not on keeping loads steady. In contrast, an emergency water tanker does not need to clean out the inside of the tanker. What is a priority is maintaining stability at high speeds, something that food tankers are simply not designed for.

Experts think that custom designed water tankers for emergency use would reduce the number of accidents involving these tankers. If tankers were designed for emergency use, they could be designed with stronger tires (to maintain the water weight of a full tanker) and stronger chassis as well as a lower center of gravity to reduce the risk of rollovers. These trucks could have seat belt warning systems to encourage seat belt use, correct axles for the use of the truck, and specific pumps and equipment that are part of the tanker design.

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