Tips for Safely and Legally Hauling Liquid Loads in Tank Trucks

Liquid loads present major challenges for route-running portable sanitation drivers.

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Carrying liquid loads – like a half-tank of portable restroom wastewater – is a huge safety responsibility. Not only do the contents contain chemicals and bacteria that could be harmful if spilled, but the constant sloshing as you drive down the highway can make your service rig difficult to control in traffic.

The importance of taking precautions behind the wheel of a pumping truck has been reinforced several times over the past year, with reports of rollover crashes involving wastewater haulers. A goal for the industry should be eliminating these often-deadly crashes.

Whether you are an owner-operator or hire drivers, it’s important to brush up on professional driving techniques that will keep you and motorists around you safe as you run restroom routes. That’s the aim of a safety video, “Cargo Tank Driver Rollover Prevention,’’ produced jointly by the National Tank Truck Carriers and the American Trucking Association in cooperation with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

You can see the video at It’s also free to download and show to drivers as part of a safety-training program.

Using video graphics, the video shows the impact of sudden movements and tripping the wheels over the shoulder when carrying an unstable load. It explains how dangerous liquid slosh and surge can result from driving too fast for conditions, by squaring off the turning radius and by sudden braking or other maneuvers.

It goes on to explain that drivers are ultimately responsible for many of these factors. It stresses that drivers need to do extensive route planning if they’re carrying a load more prone to rollover risk. And the video shares a variety of tips that would be helpful to any hauler:

Know Your Limitations

Be aware of how loads with a high center of gravity will react when you turn, hit a ramp or execute a braking maneuver. And understand that a full load is actually safer to transport than a partial load. The vast majority of rollover crashes (94 percent) occur in rigs carrying partial liquid loads – as they are more susceptible to extreme sloshing and surging.

Manage Your Speed

Remember that speed limits and guidelines at curves are meant for general motorists in good weather conditions, not for drivers pulling unstable loads. Fleet experts say truck drivers should maintain a speed at least 10 mph below the posted speed on curves. The faster you go, the more risk you have that a sudden adjustment will cause a rollover.

Maintain Your Rig, Route

Always perform thorough pre-trip inspections to make sure the brakes, tires and suspension will operate safely. And before you take the wheel, identify the higher risk sections of your route. Pinpoint stretches with soft shoulders, downhill grades, limited visibility and twisty turns. Know these risks well ahead of time so you can slow your reactions and maintain control.

Watch For Driver Fatigue

It’s always a bad idea to drive when you’re tired, but it’s doubly dangerous when pulling top-heavy or liquid load. Stay sharp by eating right, stopping frequently to stretch and getting plenty of sleep. Be mindful of clues that you need to take a break, including daydreaming, frequent yawning, heavy eyelids and head bobbing or drifting from your lane.

Listen To The PRO

In the video, 33-year veteran driver G. Wayne Matheson sounds the safety watchword for fellow cargo tank haulers – and truckers in general.

“Anytime you speed up, you’re subject to mess up,’’ Matheson warns. “When you get so comfortable and think that you’ve been driving so long and you have so much experience … that it all comes natural to you, you’re gonna mess up. Because something’s going to get you when you’re not expecting it.’’


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