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Commercial trucks of all types are integral to the consumer industry. Unfortunately, they can also pose serious threats to the safety of other drivers on the road. The size and weight of big rigs make for catastrophic and often deadly accidents. In 2017, 4,657 deadly accidents involved large trucks, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Many of these large trucks were tankers.
What Is a Tanker Truck?
A tanker truck is a commercial truck designed to carry liquids, or wet trades. These trucks typically have large holding tanks in their cargo areas to transport nonsolid materials. Wet trades may be dangerous or nondangerous. Some examples of dangerous liquid cargos are gasoline, chemicals, pesticides, crude oil and liquid nitrogen. Examples of nondangerous liquids include cement, fruit juice, vegetable oil, milk and liquefied rubber.
Tanker trucks may also carry granular dry materials. These commonly include grain, gravel, dirt, fertilizer, sand, seeds and coal. The average tanker truck can hold between 5,500 to 10,000 gallons of material. Some can exceed 10,000 gallons, with special permits. Tanker trucks are necessary to transport materials that traditional commercial trucks cannot. However, they can also contribute to some of the deadliest motor vehicle accidents on the road.
Risks Involved When a Tanker Truck Crashes
Tanker truck crashes are especially dangerous because they involve all the risks of a typical commercial vehicle accident, plus additional hazards due to the type of cargo. A tanker truck accident can exert extreme forces on a smaller vehicle in a collision because of its size and weight. This can lead to serious and fatal injuries for the occupants of the passenger vehicle. If the crash breaches the cargo hold, additional hazards could appear.
- Release of toxic gases or fumes
- Hazardous chemical spills
- Flammable liquids or gases
- Lost loads
- Fires or explosions
The unique factors involved in a tanker truck accident could cause injuries such as chemical burns, toxic fume inhalation, poisoning and thermal burns. Victims could suffer catastrophic injuries such as traumatic amputation or shrapnel wounds in an explosion. The nature of a tanker truck means the risk of death is higher in than in a typical car accident.
Common Causes of Tanker Truck Accidents
Catastrophic tanker truck accidents often occur because of human error and driver negligence. A reckless or careless driver could put the safety of everyone else on the roadway in jeopardy. A negligent tanker truck driver, for example, could be guilty of driving drowsy, drunk or distracted – leading to loss of control over the dangerous tanker truck. Failing to uphold the commercial trucking industry’s standards of safety and care could be fatal. If this is the case, the truck company may be liable.
- Truck driver error
- Unsafe tanker truck
- Overloaded truck
These are the three most common causes of tanker truck accidents in California. All three are preventable with reasonable prudence. It is a truck company’s legal duty to look out for the safety of other drivers on the road. This means properly training drivers, maintaining trucks and loading vehicles. A breach of duty anywhere during loading or transportation could set the stage for a deadly tanker truck crash.
Who Is Liable?
The truck company in charge of the tanker truck and/or its driver will be liable for most crashes. Companies are vicariously responsible for the accidents their drivers or other workers cause. They are also directly responsible for the accidents they cause. A company could cause an accident through negligence such as inadequate driver training or failing to inspect a truck.
Another potential defendant could be a product manufacturer if a defective truck part contributed to the wreck. Victims could have grounds for premises liability lawsuits. Finally, the City of Sacramento could be liable if a road defect, such as a pothole, caused the crash. A truck accident lawyer in Sacramento can help a victim determine liability for a tanker truck accident.