Fuel, chemical, and gas transport companies rely on tanker trucks to safely hold and transport hazardous chemicals and gasses across our nation’s highways and interstates. These combustible materials pose obvious safety risks to other motorists when a tanker truck accident occurs. But even seemingly non-hazardous cargo, such as water, milk, and grain, can pose hazards to other motorists when improperly transported.
To ensure public safety, the Department of Transportation imposes special requirements for tanker trucks above and beyond what it requires for other commercial trucks. Because when tanker truck accidents do occur, they can close down highways, cause entire neighborhoods to evacuate, and result in serious and catastrophic injuries to others on the road. Contact a truck accident lawyer for legal help.
Why Are Tanker Trucks so Dangerous?
Commercial trucks are usually several times larger and tens of thousands of pounds heavier than cars and other vehicles. A truck hits another vehicle with tremendous impact. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,014 people died in commercial truck accidents in the U.S. last year.
Tanker trucks pose an even greater danger that other commercial trucks in several ways:
High Risk of Rollover
Drivers must handle tanker trucks carefully to avoid rollover accidents. Rollover accidents occur when a tanker fails to slow while turning or its wheels trip on a curb when turning too sharply. A rolled-over tanker truck often requires first responders to block the road for a while, and those around the accident site risk harm from the release of hazardous chemicals from the truck’s tank.
High Risk of Fire
Tanker trucks often carry combustible material like oil or gas. A ruptured tank’s contents can spill. Just one spark can cause an explosion with deadly consequences. But collisions aren’t the only cause of tanker truck fires and explosions. Faulty fuel tanks, overweight tanks, or an engine defect can trigger deadly fires.
Exertion of Force
The size and weight of tanker trucks make them especially dangerous. Heavy-duty tankers can haul more than 26,000 pounds of material plus the weight of the tanker. These massive trucks can stretch 53 feet long for a single trailer and up to 100 feet for multi-trailer configurations. When these massive vehicles collide with other vehicles, the sheer force results in catastrophic casualties.
Common Injuries in Tanker Truck Accidents
Accidents from tanker trucks pose even more dangers than other commercial vehicles, such as:
- Burn injuries from fires and corrosive materials
- Explosion and blast injuries
- Loss of limbs (either traumatically from the force of an explosion or release of compressed gas, or medically due to damage from a burn or other injury)
- Lung damage (from toxic chemicals and fumes)
- Eye injuries (from toxic chemicals and fumes)
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
The Tanker Truck Driver
You can hold tanker truck drivers who don’t follow the rules of the road and speed, drive recklessly, or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, liable for their negligent actions. You can also hold them at fault for not following local and federal regulations and ensuring their vehicle is safe to drive.
How Can a Truck Driver’s Negligence Contribute to a Trucking Accident?
Error on the tank driver’s part often causes accidents.
Causes may include:
- Fatigue: Many tanker truck drivers must spend long hours on the road, and it’s easy for them tire, especially if they do not get proper rest and take regular breaks. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue causes up to 30 percent of all commercial truck accidents. To cut down on driver fatigue. Driver fatigue is one reason the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours truckers can drive in a 24-hour period and requires them to take breaks while driving. However, some drivers may stay on the road longer than allowed.
- Truck driver inexperience: An inexperienced truck driver may not have the skills or knowledge to safely operate a commercial vehicle, especially in hazardous driving conditions such as steep inclines, poor weather, or heavy traffic. They may also not understand federal safety guidelines. Federal requirements for tanker truck drivers are even greater than other commercial drivers. They must have additional certifications beyond a commercial driver’s license (CDL), including an “N” endorsement and, if they will transport hazardous material, a Hazmat endorsement, known as an “X” endorsement. Inexperienced truck drivers may not understand the importance of following maintenance schedules, regular inspections, and loading procedures. Furthermore, tank truck drivers need to understand baffles and bulkheads, which control and prevent the forward and backward surge of liquid in the tanks. Tank truck drivers must understand how these elements affect how the tractor handles.
- Truck driving under the influence: Alcohol or drugs and commercial trunks form a dangerous mix. Throw in the dangers of combustible cargo, and catastrophe can result. Because of this, the federal blood alcohol level for commercial truck drivers is less than for other motorists—0.04 percent compared to 0.08 percent.
- Distracted driving: According to FMCSA, 8 percent of commercial truck accidents involve distracted driving. This includes texting, talking on the phone, eating, drinking, or setting navigation systems. Just a momentary distraction can cause a deadly crash.
- Speeding: A speeding tanker truck is more than a speeding bullet—it’s a massive torch waiting to ignite. When a tanker truck driver speeds, they have less time to react to unexpected situations. Collisions at high speeds with these massive trucks exert even greater force with catastrophic results.
The Trucking Company
You can hold the trucking company liable for a crash involving one of their tanker trucks due to:
- Failure to maintain their commercial vehicles: Trucking companies must inspect all commercial vehicles and conduct routine maintenance to ensure all systems function properly and don’t pose a hazard to the driver or other motorists. Tanker truck companies must examine the tank and surrounding areas for leaks. Not only is transporting liquid or gaseous material in a leaking tank a crime, it also creates obvious safety issues.
- Negligent hiring practices: Trucking companies that use tanker trucks or transport hazardous materials must screen their drivers for the proper certifications and training before they allow them on the road. Trucking companies must also conduct background checks on all drivers to ensure that a driver has no criminal record, traffic violations, or questionable job history. Some trucking companies will allow lapses in a driver’s skill during staffing issues or when their services are in high demand.
- Negligent retention: Not only should trucking companies vet driver applicants, they should also regularly evaluate their drivers to ensure they comply with state and federal regulations, conduct periodic drug tests, and discipline or terminate any driver who does not meet these safety standards.
- Failure to supervise: Carriers must ensure their employees follow federal regulations, and discipline or terminate careless, negligent, or unsafe drivers. You can hold trucking companies who do not take necessary supervisory measures when issues arise with their drivers liable for an accident. You can also hold them liable when their unrealistic expecations encourage drivers to speed or violate hours of service restrictions.
How May Vicarious Liability May Apply to a Tanker Truck Accident Case?
Under the principle of vicarious liability, you can hold employers responsible for their employees’ actions if they acted within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. This means that if a tanker truck driver causes an accident while performing their job duties, you can hold the employer or trucking company liable for damages resulting from the accident.
How Do I Establish a Trucking Company’s Liability in a Tanker Truck Accident?
To hold a trucking company liable in a tanker truck accident, you must establish:
- The tanker truck driver worked for the trucking company when the accident occurred
- The tanker truck driver was on duty when the accident happened
The Loading Company
The loading company must properly fill hazardous materials in a tanker truck. The loading company must train hazmat employees every three years, perform leakage tests, and load and secure cargo so that it does not endanger others. If they do not, you can hold them liable for the accident.
What Evidence Can Prove Liability in a Truck Accident?
All commercial trucking companies must follow regulations and keep up-to-date records. Here, again, tanker trucks and those that carry hazardous materials must meet special requirements. Regulators and law enforcement review truck driver and trucking company records for compliance with the law.
After a tanker truck accident, your lawyer can review these records to look for any violations.
These records may include:
- Tank truck driver hours of service logs
- Driver pre-trip inspection report
- Inspection and maintenance records
- Truck data record logs
- Trucker employment, certifications, and driving records
- Cargo and freight manifest
- Drug and alcohol testing after an accident
- Cell phone usage data
- Post-accident inspection report
What Compensation Can Tanker Truck Accident Victims Obtain?
Victims of tanker truck accidents or their surviving family members may seek compensation for their losses through a tanker truck accident claim.
They may recover compensation for:
- Current and future medical expenses, such as the cost of medical treatment, hospitalization, medication, rehabilitation, and other expenses related to the injuries incurred now and in the future
- Medical equipment for mobility, such as wheelchairs or walkers
- Modifications to the home or vehicle if the injury disables them
- Lost income if the accident injuries cause the injured person to miss work
- Loss of future earnings if the injured person cannot work in the same capacity as before the accident
- Property damage for the repair or replacement of personal property damaged in the accident
- Pain and suffering for the physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish suffered because of the accident
- Loss of enjoyment of life if the accident degrades the quality of the victim’s life
- Loss of consortium if the accident affects the injured victim’s relationship with their spouse or partner
- Funeral and burial or cremation expenses if the accident results in death
How Can a Lawyer Help Me With a Tanker Truck Accident Claim?
If you suffered injuries in a tanker truck accident or you lost a loved one in a fatal truck crash due to the negligence of the truck driver, trucking company, or other party, you may recover compensation for your losses.
The trucking company’s insurance company will quickly offer a settlement, but you should never accept it without first talking with a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling truck accident claims. You are likely entitled to far more compensation than the trucking company and their insurance company offer.
A lawyer can strengthen your case for maximum compensation by:
- Filing preservation orders with the trucking company or truck driver to secure evidence such as trucking logs and inspection reports
- Identifying all liable parties
- Hiring accident scene reconstruction, medical, engineering, and financial experts to provide testimony on your behalf
- Determining the full extent and value of your damages
- Negotiating a fair settlement with insurance companies
- Filing your case in civil court within the statute of limitations
- Representing you in court and advocating on your behalf should your case require a lawsuit
Contact a Tanker Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Contact a truck accident lawyer today to discuss your tanker truck accident case during a free consultation. You have probably racked up thousands of dollars in medical expenses to treat painful injuries, and may deserve significant compensation to pay for them. Call a personal injury attorney in Bakersfield now to start the process of recovering the compensation you deserve.