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Tanker Truck Types

by Rick Carlton; Updated March 16, 2018

Tanker trucks are motor vehicles that either carry or pull trailers capable of handling various liquid, dry bulk or gaseous loads. These vehicles are typically categorized as heavy, medium or light-duty types based on their load-carrying capacities. Tank trucks may be vacuum-sealed, insulated/noninsulated, or pressurized/nonpressurized, and in the case of larger truck/trailer packages, can also pull one or more loads. In this case, dissimilar loads can be divided within a single container enclosure, or loads can be mixed by piggybacking multiple trailers. With the exception of light-duty tankers, such as water dispersion tankers, drivers typically carry Class B or C commercial licenses in addition to various bulk goods, fuels or hazmat endorsements.

Heavy Duty

Heavy-duty tanker truck/trailer packages typically carry capacities ranging from 5,500 gallons to 9,000 gallons, managing gross weights above 26,000 lbs. Lengths for these combination setups can range from 30 to 53 feet for single-trailer configurations to nearly 100 feet in the case of multiple-trailer rigs. Tanker enclosures of the latter type typically carry bulk dry goods to mitigate safety concerns, although there are some companies that operate more-dangerous liquid loads using a piggyback trailer approach.

Medium Duty

Medium-duty tanker trucks can either be operated as truck/trailer packages or what are referred to as frame-carried. In the latter case, the tanker enclosure is mated directly to the truck's frame as a single unit. These systems typically offer capacities ranging from 500 gallons to 4,000 gallons, at gross weights below 26,000 lbs. Typical tanker load configurations of this type include gas, fuel and water.

Light Duty

Light-duty tanker trucks are usually operated as frame-carried vehicles. These systems typically offer capacities ranging from 100 gallons to 1,000 gallons, at gross weights below 12,000 lbs. Typical tanker load configurations of this type include fuel, oil and water.

About the Author

Since 1984, Rick Carlton has authored more than 450 articles on the principles, application, analysis and deployment of interoperable enterprise technologies. Additionally, he has written more than 150 feature articles on aviation, auto and motorsports topics including work for The Auto Channel, "Automobile," "Flight Training" and "On-Track" magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

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