Any type of truck accident poses a substantial hazard to everyone sharing the road with the truck driver. Tanker trucks, however, pose unique hazards. Often, tanker trucks carry hazardous liquids and chemicals. If the tank cracks, it can spill those chemicals over the road, impacting victims in the accident, as well as individuals responsible for rescue and cleanup.
What Are Tanker Trucks?
Tanker trucks carry liquid loads across the United States. Depending on the load the tanker truck carries, it may have a slightly different design. Some are pressurized, some are insulated, and others may have internal divisions that allow a single tanker to carry more than one type of liquid. Large trucks may have a capacity of more than 11,000 gallons. Tanker trucks may haul:
- Liquid sugar
- Industrial chemicals
Smaller tanker trucks may also have specialized designs that allow them to carry highly specific loads: asphalt or cement, for example. A tanker truck’s design often determines what it can carry: a tank designed for asphalt, for example, may not have the capacity to safely haul water. Tanker trucks hauling water or other liquids may pose less hazard to others on the road than trucks hauling chemicals when an accident occurs.
Common Tanker Truck Accidents
Tanker trucks pose many of the same hazards as other big trucks. Like semi-trucks, they have large blind spots that can make it difficult for drivers to change lanes or require them to make wide turns. Tanker trucks may, however, have a higher risk of certain other types of accidents, such as:
- Rollover accidents. Like other big trucks, tanker trucks sit high off the road. The liquid in those tanks may create instability if the wheels slip off the road or the tanker truck goes down a steep incline, substantially increasing the risk of a rollover accident.
- Cargo leaks or explosions. Many tanker trucks carry dangerous chemicals. In some cases, those chemicals may ignite, causing an explosion. In others, tanker trucks may suffer leaks that can cause chemical exposure to other drivers around them. Leaks and explosions may result from any type of tanker truck accident, increasing the danger of burns, chemical burns, or chemical exposure.
Tanker trucks can, like any other type of truck, suffer mechanical failure, from tire blowouts to engine failure. Tanker trucks may also cause rear-end collisions due to the driver’s inability to stop safely.
What Should You Do After a Tanker Truck Accident?
In an accident with a tanker truck, you may need to take special actions to ensure that you and your passengers stay as safe as possible. Consider taking the following actions:
- Stay away from the cargo. If you notice the truck leaking, get far away from the leak. Avoid doing anything that could ignite gasoline, chemicals, or fumes in the air. Do not touch anything leaking from a tanker truck. If you do come into contact with the tank’s cargo, you may experience chemical burns, which can cause permanent disfigurement.
- Find out what the truck contains. If you suspect a leak in a tanker truck, make sure you know what the truck contains. Some tanker trucks may haul perfectly innocent cargo that poses no danger to accident victims. Others, on the other hand, may contain hazardous cargo. Even if you do not come into direct contact with the contents of the truck, it could still cause damage. Some hazardous chemicals may cause your eyes or lungs to burn as you inhale them. Others may cause no immediate symptoms. Regardless, knowing what the tanker truck was hauling will allow you to receive better treatment. Tanker trucks carrying hazardous chemicals typically have clear labels that indicate the danger posed by those chemicals; however, you should still ask about the truck’s cargo.
- Cooperate fully with first responders and medical personnel. If first responders ask you to leave the scene of an accident for your own safety, get away from your vehicle. You can return for your possessions later, but you do not want to increase the danger to your health if the tanker truck spills hazardous chemicals or materials that could pose a fire hazard over the scene. First responders will prioritize keeping you and other accident victims as safe as possible. Before the arrival of first responders, listen to the driver’s recommendations about how to handle yourself around the scene; many truck drivers are familiar with their cargo and know how to handle an accident.
- Seek medical attention. Any time you suffer exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals, even if you think you may have avoided any symptoms, you should seek medical attention. Going straight to an emergency room or urgent care facility will ensure that you do not miss potentially dangerous symptoms resulting from chemical exposure. By receiving immediate treatment, you will likely decrease adverse symptoms and/or alleviate future injuries. By seeking medical attention as soon as possible, you also ensure that you have a clear evidence record that will display when you suffered exposure to those chemicals and how that exposure impacted your overall health, including in the long-term. If you have other medical conditions that chemical exposure may impact, make sure you talk with your doctors as soon as possible.
- Contact an attorney. In many cases, the full impact of chemical exposure may not appear until months or even years after your accident. When you suffer injuries in an accident with a tanker truck, especially a tanker truck hauling hazardous chemicals, contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can work with you to understand the compensation you deserve as well as ensure that you get a full picture of the dangers you face from exposure to the tank’s contents.
Tanker truck accidents typically occur without warning, leaving you with serious injuries and many questions. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible, so the attorney can start working on investigating your accident and building a strong personal injury case.