The Specialized Field of Driving Petroleum Tankers

Driving a fuel or oil transport tanker is a highly specialized field. A Class A Commercial Drivers License (CDL), with tanker and Hazmat endorsements, must be held. However, this is just the beginning when entering the highly regulated world of transporting petroleum-based products. To some, the responsibility is too overwhelming, but to others, the industry can become an exciting way of life.

Knowing how to handle highly flammable products takes hours of training, and quick reflexes, in order to heighten your senses, and your ability to quickly respond. Providing a safe environment for the general public has to be on the mind of a petroleum tanker driver at all times. This includes watching for erratic drivers on the highways, making sure all pressure gauges are set correctly, and watching that spills never occur while loading or unloading. The same rules for on-road hours is the same as other CDL operated vehicles.

A current DOT medical card must be held for the protection of others, and yourself. An accident due to a seizure or heart attack, while driving, can put hundreds of people at risk. Your vision must be 20/40, or better, and it is not unusual for companies to require that you be able to lift between 50 and 75 pounds of weight. The hoses and fittings that deliver different grades of fuel into separate compartments, can be very cumbersome, awkward, and heavy. Most gas and oil company employers also require drivers to be Interstate and Intrastate excepted, due to the location of refineries, loading racks and the ending destination. Not all loading racks carry the same product, and finding the right one can take a driver across state lines.

It is very difficult to become a petroleum tanker driver once you have completed a Semi Driving School course. Most driving schools concentrate on how to maneuver a 53-foot long trailer, learning the DOT requirements and public safety. While all of these basic skills are required by oil and gas tanker drivers, the petroleum industry, itself, has to be learned. Liquid cargo is a specialty alone, but adding flammable and explosive factors into the mix, make additional training necessary. Many large petroleum companies offer complete driving schools for those wanting to get into the business. This is the easiest way for a company to know that a potential employee is responsible enough to work around petroleum.

Understanding your cargo, how it reacts to temperature, shifting weight, and the different designer fuels and additives, is usually when a potential driver realizes, whether or not, petroleum tanker driving is the right career to follow. Each state and each customer has specific requirements of grades and mixtures that must be fulfilled. Loading an incorrect combination can result in a costly pump off of the contents. This can cost the company many hours of time and money. State and federal regulations that are in place, further the complexity of hauling fuel. If, so much as one pint of fuel is allowed to touch the ground, while unloading on a customer's property, costly cleanup measures are required, according to EPA standards.

Since 9/11, new precautions have been put into place at fuel loading facilities. Rules that safeguard against unauthorized personnel entering the grounds can include personal background checks, issuance of personal identity cards, and strict equipment requirements. A driver may also be required to sit through a training session on how to use the terminal's computerized loading software. Hundreds of products and customers can be listed, plus codes and corresponding numbers that match each particular load. Some loading terminals go one step further and require each driver to be supervised for the first three visits, by terminal staff, to address any questions.

The salary for a fuel tanker transport driver ranges from $35,000 to $60,000, per year, according to the area and the employer. It is possible to become an independent contractor for one or more customers, but only after you are able to secure the required insurance required by different states, customers, and loading facilities. This coverage normally includes $2 to $5 million in vehicle and general liability coverage, a pollution control policy, MCS-90 rider, and worker's compensation. Proof of financial responsibility and industry references, are also required.

Becoming a fuel transporter carries a different set of rules than a truck driver that hauls dry goods. However, the work is always available, you are able to join a great family of like-minded individuals, and the pay is substantial. Work is often local, so being home each night, is another plus. The fuel and oil industry offers many challenges and advancements for truck drivers, but can guarantee a very good future. Financial security, holding a position of high demand and loving your job, are all great reasons for entering fuel hauling.