All trucking accidents have the potential to be devastating. Even accidents involving smaller delivery vans can result in fatalities, brain trauma, burn injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other serious personal injuries. However, some trucks, by their very nature, are far more dangerous in a collision. For example, tanker trucks carry liquid cargo which often includes hazardous, flammable, or otherwise dangerous materials.
When tanker trucks are in a collision, their liquid cargo reacts very differently than solid materials in a standard truck. If a tanker truck is not filled to capacity, for example, the liquid cargo can slosh around when the truck is speeding or taking turns. This can cause the truck to move more and can make the vehicle harder to control. When a tanker truck is not filled to capacity, there is no way to properly balance or secure the liquid so that it will not move. This means that the truck is less stable. When tanker trucks are less than three quarters full, the weight of the liquid can shift dramatically, causing the truck to potentially spin out of control and roll over. These tankers tend to continue rolling after their initial roll, because of the shifting weight of the liquid.
In the event of a collision, the chemicals in a tanker truck can spill out or explode, specially if the outer hull of the tanker is damaged in the accident. If the liquid is flammable, the large amount of liquid in the truck can cause a massive fire and can put many people at risk of death or severe burn injuries. If the tanker truck is carrying a flammable liquid such as gasoline, the substance can burn at such high temperatures that it can destroy roads, bridges, and overpasses. Obviously, it can completely consume any vehicle or person it its path.
A tanker truck that catches on fire after a collision can cause a chain reaction of accidents and injuries. Since the fire can destroy roadways and infrastructure, other vehicles not involved in the initial crash may inadvertently drive along the damaged road and cause a car accident. As well, the flames from the initial accident can spread to other trucks full of flammable cargo or to other vehicles.
States have strict rules about the weight limits trucks can carry. Unfortunately, liquids are difficult to weigh since different liquids have different densities. Most trucking companies calculate their tanker cargo weight based on water weight. This can result in severe overloading of a truck when a liquid is very dense. A tanker truck that is overweight can be extremely dangerous and at a high risk of accidents.
Trucking companies transporting dangerous or flammable liquids must adhere to certain conditions. They are only allowed to transport these dangerous liquids on certain roads, for example. Trucking companies must also ensure that drivers entrusted with such dangerous loads have special training and are tested in addition to having their commercial trucking license. Any trucking company who is negligent in adhering to these regulations may be held liable and may even be charged in the event of an accident.