Liquid bulk transportation and tanker trucking…… a specialized niche in the trucking industry. Stainless steel tanker trailers are utilized in liquid bulk hauling, to transport a variety of liquid chemicals, food products, petroleum products and dry products.
Tanker, Liquid and Dry Bulk Hauling
If you’re interested in getting into pulling tanker trailers, there’s a few things you should be aware of.
- One of the nice perks about tanker work, is that there is no hand bombing required and usually not much waiting time at shippers and receivers.
- Hauling hazardous product involves risk of chemical spills and perhaps inhalation of hazardous chemicals. There are potential dangers when the product is being loaded and unloaded in addition to when it’s being transported. Chemical spills are a big deal…. even a small amount of chemical is spilled, there are environmental clean up procedures which are extremely expensive. You don’t want to be a driver who makes such a mistake. Some of that cost might be yours…depending on the circumstances.
- Special protective equipment is worn by drivers, to protect them from spills and splashes when loading and unloading. Filtered masks are also utilized to protect the driver from inhaling dangerous chemical fumes.
- Truckers receive special training for handling and transporting chemical and petroleum liquid products. There are some products which are harmless such as liquid soap. However, most products can be volatile, caustic and flammable.
- All trailers require a wash-out after delivery. Sometimes it’s necessary to wait for the same trailer to be washed out, rather than picking up one that’s ready to go. There may be some waiting time involved here.
- Slugging around heavy and awkward hoses for loading and unloading. Owner operators must carry this extra equipment with their truck. Storage of these hoses is awkward.
Liquid Bulk Transportation Trucking Companies
Liquid Bulk Transportation Freight Companies – The big liquid bulk companies in Canada: Seaboard Harmac, Gorski, Jade (western Canada), T.D. Smith and Trimac Transportation.
The U.S. trucking companies which specialize in liquid bulk hauling: Schneider National, Quality Carriers, Groendyke, Actom, Enterprise, Miller and Indian River (Florida based).
The Sloshing Effect
Pulling a tanker trailer, especially one without internal baffles is much more challenging than pulling a standard dry van trailer.
If you’ve ever pulled a tanker trailer, you’ve experienced the sloshing effects. This aspect of hauling liquid loads can be very intimidating at first for the driver.
Some tankers have baffles(internal compartment dividers) and some don’t…. it depends what the customer prefers and the nature of the product.
Baffles prevent excessive movement of the liquid product in the trailer. In these trailers, the internal movement of the product is minimal.
However, in a tanker without baffles, where there’s just one liquid product, it’s a completely different story. A tanker without baffles handles differently than any other trailer. The braking and handling of the trailer when driving is very different, due to the product movement.
If the product gets too much motion when the truck is traveling down the road, the movement of the product can actually take over the direction and control of the truck.
Just stopping at a set of lights, a stop sign or just slowing down can be quite an adventure for the driver!
Try to imagine dealing with product movement on an icy road or in heavy traffic…. it’s not a fun experience.
Liquid Bulk Transportation Tanker Trailers
i) Chemical & Food Grade
Food grade tankers tend to average 43′ in length and hold a volume of product about 7000 gallons on average. There are no internal baffles in these liquid trailers. Customers fear contamination of their load of product by residue of previously hauled products in the trailer, which could get trapped in baffle walls and seams. It is also much easier for a wash crew to guarantee a clean trailer if there are no baffles.
Product also unloads more quickly and efficiently without the restriction of baffles.
Finally, trailer washouts between loads are expensive starting at $200 for a simple hot water flush and ranging up into the thousands of dollars, should the trailer require an acid wash and scraping to remove hardened product. Shippers and receivers don’t wish to bear the even greater costs of a washout for a trailer with baffles.
Loading and unloading are often done by the respective shippers and receivers. This is especially the case with hazmat chemical loads. When the shippers and receivers are responsible, it helps control the multiple risk factors involved.
Product is usually loaded through an open dome in the roof of the trailer and unloaded through a 3″ nozzle at the bottom rear of the trailer.
Loads can be off loaded by gravity drop. This is done by opening the valve at the rear of the trailer, attached to a hose feeding into an underground storage compartment, pumped off by a liquid pump or ‘aired off’ by pressurizing the trailer and forcing the product out through a hose in the rear of the trailer.
Products Transported – various types of acids, liquid fertilizers, de-icer, ethylhexyl, glycol, naptha, solvents, alchohol
Petroleum hauling includes everything from hauling jet fuel for airlines to delivering gasoline and diesel fuel to gas stations and truck stops.
The fuel is loaded in refineries. Due to the vast number of refineries across the country, usually this work involves short hauls.
Petroleum products are usually loaded and unloaded by the truck driver. For the most part, trucking companies tend to utilize company trucks and company drivers, as opposed to owner operators.
Compartment tanker trailers are used for petroleum products, often in the form of B trains, depending on the region.
The sloshing movement factor is greatly reduced in compartment trailers with baffles, as the baffles control the excessive movement of the liquid product.
Hauling and handling petroleum products is still more dangerous than hauling general freight products, as these products are highly flammable.
Drivers who are smokers should consider a different type of trucking.
Because of the constant demand by our society for fuel, petroleum tanker companies always seem to have lots of work. These driving jobs generate steady, reliable income for drivers.
One should be aware though, because of the constant demand for fuel, the work goes on 24/7, often requiring drivers to work night and weekend shifts. Slip seating is also common in the petroleum hauling business, to keep the trucks moving with this high demand product.
iii) Dry Bulk
Dry bulk tanker trailers haul anything from sugar and cement to plastic pellets. The freight is not hazardous or dangerous in any way.
These trailers are offloading by pressurizing their products, usually by a large drum compressor which attaches to the tractor unit.
There is no slosh factor at all associated with these types of tankers, so many tanker drivers prefer this type of work.
Dry bulk trailers tend to be large, high and long as the products are lighter. As we all know, the customers like to move as much product in one load as possible.
Hauling dry bulk in tanker trailers, tends to be short haul work. Long haul dry bulk is normally done by rail.
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