The trucking industry moves 71 percent of all freight in America. Approximately 25 percent of those trucks are tanker trucks hauling harmless products such as fruit juice, but the rest might haul dangerous contents, including nitrogen, hydrogen, propane, gasoline, aviation fuel, and toxic chemicals.
When a tanker truck is involved in an accident, it can wreak havoc and destruction that leads to serious injuries and fatalities. While these trucks play an important role in transporting the products we depend on, we must recognize these vehicles for the dangers they present on our roads and highways.
This quick guide reveals more about tanker trucks, how they cause catastrophic accidents, the price accident victims often pay, and what you can do if you are involved in a tanker truck accident.
What Are the Different Types of Tanker Trucks?
Tanker trucks carry all sorts of liquid and non-liquid cargo, some of which are benign and some that are hazardous.
A tanker truck might carry:
- Gasoline and other fuel
- Non-potable water
- Toxic chemicals
- Hazardous gas (nitrogen, hydrogen)
- Waste from agriculture or manufacturing
Often, the type of cargo in the tank adds to the risks of these already potentially dangerous vehicles.
What Makes Tanker Trucks So Dangerous?
Tanker trucks can be particularly dangerous because they pose all the typical risks that come with common tractor-trailers, but they have the added element of carrying hazardous cargo that can be explosive or extremely dangerous in an accident.
First, consider the many dangers of a typical big-rig:
- Their immense size and weight: The enormity of these big trucks means they can cause major destruction when they are involved in an accident. They require extra space to brake and avoid hitting other motor vehicles.
- Top-heavy: When a commercial truck makes a sharp turn, hits a curb, or overcorrects, it risks flipping over.
- Large blind spots: Trucks have blind spots that extend on all four sides of the truck, and it is especially difficult for drivers to see vehicles traveling next to, or behind, the trailer.
- Driver fatigue: Many truckers drive while fatigued to meet company mileage goals. When a driver is behind the wheel without their full faculties, they are a danger to everyone who shares the road with them.
What makes tanker trucks even more dangerous is that they compound the above issues with hazardous cargo that can cause a catastrophe on the road. These materials have the potential to explode or unleash toxic fumes in an accident. Even non-hazardous cargo, such as grain or produce, can cause serious chain-reaction accidents if they were to spill onto the road.
What Causes Tanker Truck Accidents?
Tanker truck drivers should have thorough training and carry the required certifications and endorsements for transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT). Even with the best training, however, accidents can still happen. All it takes is a fatigued or distracted driver behind the wheel to cause a horrible accident. Along the same lines, a driver who breaks the law by speeding or driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications can easily make a deadly mistake.
Because tanker trucks are unable to stop quickly, the driver must remain alert, always anticipating what another driver might do so they can react with adequate time to avoid a dangerous accident.
Even if the driver does everything right, their truck could still cause an accident if the trucking company:
- Fails to repair the truck and perform regular maintenance
- Does not conduct regular safety inspections
- Overloads the truck
- Provides inadequate training for their drivers
- Overloads drivers with unrealistic delivery deadlines resulting in a speeding driver or a tired driver
What Injuries Result From Tanker Truck Accidents?
As we’ve discussed, tanker truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and even death.
Common injuries resulting from an accident with a tanker truck include:
- Severe whiplash or neck injuries
- Back injuries (herniated discs and fractured vertebrae)
- Internal injuries
- Crushed or broken bones
- Amputated limbs because doctors are unable to save crushed bones
- Head trauma or traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries that can lead to paralysis
- Chemical exposure
- Severe burns
- Smoke inhalation from fire or explosion
- Radiation exposure
- Internal injuries
Even those not directly involved in a collision can suffer injuries by hazardous materials or other tanker cargo that spills onto the road. For example, nearby victims could inhale chemicals, suffer reactions from contamination, or experience radiation exposure.
The injuries resulting from tanker accidents are regularly severe. Some injuries may need surgery and physical therapy, while other injuries can lead to permanent impairments. Recovery from these grave accidents can require ongoing medical treatment, physical therapy, hospitalization, surgeries, and more. On top of that, victims often must deal with loss of income because they are unable to return to work. The losses can be overwhelming.
What Should You Do After a Tanker Truck Accident?
If you are involved in a tanker truck accident and suffer injuries, your immediate priority is to get appropriate medical care and begin your road to recovery. You should also contact a tanker truck accident attorney as soon as you are able. A skilled attorney can answer all your legal questions as well as pursue financial compensation for your damages.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be able to recover compensation for one or more of the following damages.
- Economic damages: These are monetary losses you incur as a result of your injury. Ambulance transportation, hospitalization, loss of wages, and any medical costs are common economic damages incurred by accident victims.
- Non-economic damages: These are non-monetary losses not tied to financial losses. Pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, and loss of enjoyment of life are just some of the non-economic damages you can recover.
- Punitive damages: These damages intend to punish the liable party if their behavior was especially egregious or intentional. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the person who is at fault, and anyone else, from behaving similarly in the future.
Once you receive medical attention and are physically able to, schedule an initial consultation and case evaluation, which truck accident attorneys should offer for free. You can learn about your legal options and find out if you are eligible to receive compensation for the damages you sustained.