How to Become a Tanker Truck Driver
The need for truckers is on the rise. Whether you’re a new driver or a driver with considerable experience, it’s always good to find ways to get new skills and endorsements to increase your pay. Getting your tanker endorsement so you can get tanker jobs is a great way to do this.
Find out what it takes to be a tanker truck driver and how to become a tanker truck driver. You can advance your career in the trucking industry.
If you want to learn how to become a tanker truck driver, it’s good to know a little about what your typical day on the job might look like. Tanker drivers often can’t just grab their cargo and go. You might have to travel to several locations to fill your tank. An example is if you’re transporting milk: you will likely need to visit several farms before you fill up your tank.
Hauling liquids that require several stops to fill up means you’ll need to be skilled enough to travel with a partial load in your tank. Food grade trucks are often unbaffled, meaning they have no breaks in the tank to slow the back and forth flow of liquid while you drive, stop, and start. Imagine coming to a gentle stop at a light or stop sign, only to get hit by the wave of liquid in your tank, which can push your truck into the intersection. Tanker jobs require skill.
Daily life for a tanker truck driver varies depending on the loads you carry and where you’re located, but the general responsibilities are always the same. Tanker jobs require tanker truck drivers to haul liquids or gases in large tanker vehicles. This may include food-grade loads or hazardous loads. If you drive tankers with hazardous materials, the pay is typically higher because the risk is higher.
Tanker truck drivers are responsible for safely transporting their loads wherever they may need to go and properly operating their fuel hose during loading and unloading. While hauling a tanker truck sounds straightforward, it requires you to have a great deal of skill, additional CDL endorsements, and to understand the additional regulations and restrictions on tanker loads.
In addition to the regular hazards of driving a large vehicle, tanker trucks present additional hazards due to the unique nature of liquid loads. Partial loads shift and can push trucks forward or cause them to roll if you’re not careful when starting, stopping, or taking turns.
Aside from the hazards of carrying a liquid load, being a tanker truck driver may also include carrying HazMat loads that require additional regulations and safety precautions. Some examples of hazardous loads you may be expected to transport in a tanker job include:
Many of these liquids are highly flammable, which increases the risk to the driver, especially in cases of a rollover or a traffic incident. Some of these materials are dangerous in other ways, such as sulfuric acid, which can cause serious burns and even lung damage if you inhale the fumes. You’ll need to know the safety procedures and regulations when hauling any type of hazardous load.
The weight limit for a tanker truck can vary from state to state. For example, Michigan allows loads of up to 130,000 pounds as long as they remain in the state. However, for most OTR jobs, there is a limit of 80,000 pounds. Super loads may exceed this weight, but depending on the state, they may require extra permits or be required to follow additional regulations for an overweight load.
Because of these weight restrictions, tanker trucks sometimes can’t be filled to their full tank capacity, even if there is room for more liquid. Different liquids have different densities and weights, and some liquids are dense enough to reach the weight limit before fully filling the tanker. Some trucks even have the capability to transport several types of liquids at a time, each of which can have a different density, affecting the total carry capacity of the tanker even more.
Tanker trucks have some serious hauling capabilities. Most trucks can haul between 5,500 and 11,600 gallons. The hauling capacity of the truck is usually related to the distance they must travel with their loads. In general, larger trucks haul longer distances and smaller trucks with 3,000-gallon capacities are used locally.
What you need to do to become a tanker truck driver and get a tanker job partially depends on what kind of loads you intend to haul. Tanker truck drivers are usually required to have a tanker endorsement on their CDL. There are two main types of tanker endorsements you can get:
Drivers looking to get endorsements on their CDL can find many online endorsement practice tests to help them prepare to pass the written exam.
Even drivers who do not drive tanker trucks may still need to have a tanker endorsement on their CDL if they are hauling containers that carry liquids. If you are going to haul attached or portable tanks containing 1,000 gallons or more or to haul bulk containers over 119 gallons each that add up 1,000 gallons total, you must also have a tanker endorsement. This applies even if the load is carried in a dry van.
Aside from having the proper endorsements on your CDL, learning how to become a tanker truck driver starts with getting your first job in the trucking industry and building up your experience. The more experience you have driving other large vehicles that require a CDL, the better prepared you will be to take on the additional challenges of hauling liquid loads.
If you’re looking into how to become a tanker truck driver, you must have the skills to transport the liquids safely. These skills include managing surge, checking for leaks, turning safely, and correctly filling and emptying your tanks.
Aside from the technical skills needed to become a tanker truck driver and have a tanker job, there are also general trucking and personal skills that will make you a better tanker truck driver in the long haul:
Getting additional endorsements and experience early on will prepare you to take on more responsibilities and make more money in your trucking career.
Many drivers look into becoming tanker truck drivers because tanker drivers make more money on average. This is because more experience and skill is required to haul liquid loads. The average salary for a tanker truck driver is around $60,000 but can range from around $40,000 on the low end to as much as $84,000 for certain tanker jobs.
Some companies pride themselves on offering higher-than-average pay for tanker truck drivers. An example is Schneider National, which pays an average of $81,000 per year to their tanker truck drivers—far above the national average of $60,000.
Learning how to become a tanker truck driver and finding the best truck driving jobs takes time and effort but is worth the reward: building a great career. Take the time early on in your trucking experience to earn tanker endorsements and take on opportunities that will give you as much experience and skill as possible. This will help prepare you to build your career and make more money as a tanker truck driver in a tanker job down the road.