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Tanker Truck Safety Feature

Just a little break from the “they are out to get you” blasts from October.

Hey – RKA is in the Fuel Transportation Biz.   You see the tanker trucks on-the-road.  You might have even looked at one of ours when we had one at Wick for a Touch-The-Truck Day.

Most Fuel Tankers (MC406 spec bulk tank trailers) built and operate are the same.  After all, we all have to load at the same racks and deliver to the same consignees.

API, EPA and NFPA are the major regulators in the types of equipment fuel loading and fuel dispensing locations use.  That is one of the reasons you can fill your SUV in Michigan or Florida or Utah without changing nozzles or fittings on your car.

Michigan is one of the few states that allow 13,400 gl single-unit tankers on-the-road.

Prior to the mid-1970’s, Michigan had tractor-trailer-trailer fuel trucks.  We tipped a lot of them over in those days.   They were very top-heavy.  Also, partially because the tanks were made of steel, they almost always went BOOM when they tipped over and started sliding on their sides.

For those close to my age you may remember the City of Detroit and many other Michigan cities, had an ordinance against fuel tankers in the city roughly from sun-up to sun-down.

Anyway, some areas on the east coast allow 10-12,000 gl max fuel loads.  States on the west side of the country allow truck-trailers. Normally around 8-9,000 gls max.  Those are tank truck like our tank wagons, that pull a trailer with additional fuel.  Most of the middle of the country states have a 80,000 max gross weight rule for tankers, which translates to 8-9,000 gls per load.  We call those “small tubes”.  Certain provinces in Canada allow 15,000 gls (56,782 liters)single trailers and up to 18,000 gls (68,137 liters) “B” train combustible fuel tankers.

For the REX Fleet, RKA has:

2,000 gallon diesel exhaust fluid tanker

4,500 gallon, 4-compartment tank wagons

9,000 gallon, 4 & 5 compartment trailers

12,000 gallon 5 compartment trailers

13,400 gallon 5 compartment trailers.

If you are still reading this, (must be slow email day)  here is a peek inside of any of our trucks or trailers ..

Tanker Truck Safety Feature

Baffles – Baffles are placed inside tanks to prevent maximum forward and rearward motion of the fuel within the tank. When a truck that is hauling a fuel comes to a halt, the fuel in the tank generates a great deal of force due to the forward motion of the cargo.  To distribute the force evenly and to limit the transfer of energy, Installed vertical large-holed plates or baffles divide and slow the flow of surging fuel.

Notice the small holes in the baffles at the 3 o:clock position.  Those are designed to allow fuel to flow between the baffles in a compartment, when the trailer is On It’s Side.  There are corresponding black dots on the exterior to mark where we drill the holes in each compartment to pull the fuel out of the trailer.

Bulkheads – Bulkheads are the solid walls that like the one in the center picture.  They designate compartments on the trailer.  Trailers that have multiple compartments can carry more than one type of product as well as help reduce the fuel surge a single straight trailer would have.

Placards – Placards, like the small square-on-point at the rear of the trailer below help tell the story of what is inside a haz-mat carrying truck.  Placards tell their story by color of the placard, numbers or markings on the placard and pictures on the placard.

Our most common placard is red, with a small flame on the bottom corner, under the 1203 classification and a smaller numeral 3 indicating it is a bulk package.  This  flammable, bulk transit container.  This story lets the first responders to an incident involving haz-mat to protect themselves and fight any fire or leakage in the appropriate method!


Scully – A Scully (Brand Name) System provides overfill protection and grounding verification for fuel trucks.  Tankers that haul petroleum and many hazardous materials, need automatic and continuous self-checks of bonding and grounding and overfill or leak alerts.  . Sensors in a Scully system provide automatic and continuous self-checking circuitry to alert the Driver of an issue.

Load Heads – Load Heads, pictured in the center, under the trailer, are connections to the pipes that lead to the bottom of each compartment on the trailer.  A Driver can load product into individual compartments at the loading rack and gravity discharge product thru his hoses to the consignee.

The Driver has to be alert and attentive while loading or unloading.  Loading racks can slam fuel on his trailer at 400 to 600 gallons per minute.  One error or missed safety step in the loading process and things get messy in a hurry.

While gravity unloading, the newer trailers can unload over 200 gallons per minute.  Again, if the connections aren’t secure, or the hoses aren’t attached to the correct compartments and tanks, things get nasty fast!

Pump – Pumps are the mechanisms needed to dispense, fuels carried in tankers to certain consignees.   Pumps are installed in the tractors to accommodate the type of fuels.  If a consignee has an above-ground fuel tank, the Driver can’t use gravity to unload with.  The pump allows the Driver to pump “uphill” into above ground tanks.  It also makes is another element of fuel transport safety that cannot be overlooked by the Driver.

Vapor Recovery Systems – Vapor recovery systems are installed on tankers and at the loading racks to prevent the VOC’s, (fumes) from be dispersed into the atmosphere.  Vapor recovery systems capture fumes displaced from the consignee’s tank while loading.  These fumes are then taken back to the rack to be safely burned off or condensed back to fuel or trans-mix. VR rules and regulations help protect the environment from the harmful effects of gasoline fumes.

So there you have a 5-minute look into the inside of the common fuel tanker truck we see so-many of running thru the road construction in front of us !!  Many of the services on fuel tankers require someone to access the interior thru a 18” size man hole.  Not a good job for a claustrophobic person!

I used to tell Drivers they were not alone out there out there.  Most days, Michigan has about 14-million gallons of fuel in-transit on the roadways and pipelines.

Stay Safe My Friends !!

Gary Connor
Safety and Compliance Manager