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Dry Bulk Tanks: Everything to Know as a Truck Driver

There’s plenty of options to choose from when you’re deciding which type of truck driving job is right for you. Many drivers look to get started driving some type of tanker trucks. But what about a dry bulk tank driver? Here we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of what you need to know about dry bulk tank trucking.

What are dry bulk tanker trucks?

Dry bulk tanks are pneumatic cylinders, which sit upon a row of cone-shaped hoppers. The freight is loaded from the top of the tank, and exits from the bottom. This configuration releases the freight from the bottom into the hoses that will deliver the product to the customer. The contents pass from the cylinder, through the valves, and are then suctioned or blown out from the tank to the customer’s container.

The materials hauled can be anything from sand, powders and grains, to plastic pellets used to make your coffee pods or gaming devices. Because the materials vary so much, so do their weights. Dense powders weigh significantly more by volume than airy pellets. So careful consideration needs to be paid to weight. And keeping the loads within the weight limits set by the DOT.

Pros

1. Good Pay

These trucks are for carrying specialty freight that can’t be shipped any other way. The materials need to move from point A to point B, but unlike other trailer types where freight types can be mixed to fill up a truck to capacity, these can only haul one thing, in loose bulk. So, these drivers can only carry one thing at a time. And the cost to clean the tank out after a haul is usually built-in to the pricing.

2. Loading Using Gravity

Loading in the freight is aided by gravity. Once the truck arrives for pickup, the driver pulls up to the chute and then the load drops into the tank and gravity does most of the work. The driver then needs to be sure the tops are secure, and the load is settled. Then they can get moving on their way down the road. Instead of loading and a balancing an entire trailer full of pallets or containers, this can save some time in any trucker’s day.

3. Consistent Home Time for Most Positions

Many of these runs are regional and can result in more home time for the trucker. Though it’s a pretty tall order to guarantee a steady 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM schedule, drivers might be able to get pretty close to that with this type of trucking job.

We talked to Vincent, a Dry Bulk Truck Driver for Transport Elz, and he shared his feedback:

vincent dry bulk tank driver

Vincent, Dry Bulk Tank Driver

“I’ve been doing this job for about 6 months. We transport cement powder. These are a very nice transport. In addition, we are hardly ever dirty except if we stop for some reason. The only weak point in my opinion is that there are no schedules. We often start at night but never at the same time.”

For drivers that enjoy work-life balance with home time every week, driving a dry bulk tanker might be a good choice.

Cons

1. Expensive Equipment

When compared to a dry van trailer, a dry bulk tank trailer can be quite expensive. Due to the nature of the cargo being hauled, the systems in place on the trailers to load in and load out the materials add to the complexity of the equipment. These hoses, blowers, vacuums, and siphons make for a much higher price tag due to the specialization needed.

2. Loads Can Shift

These tankers have high centers of gravity, and while driving, the loads can shift. So extra care must be taken when driving this type of freight. For a newer driver, this takes some practice and skill-building for the long haul.

3. Cleaning Requirements

Since the materials hauled in these trailers are not in any protective packaging, there is a need to completely clean everything out between runs. If you’re hauling pellets, sand, or some other type of loose material, residue on the inside of the trailer can be a big problem with the new load. Imagine hauling white plastic pellets for a job, but somehow that load got contaminated with something blue from the last load. In the eyes of the customer, the entire load might be unusable.

Advice from the Road

We talked to Eno Inc., a dry bulk family-owned transportation company providing services to the construction industry in both Florida and Illinois. They shared,

eno inc dry bulk tanker truck

Eno Inc.

“Honestly I think the biggest con [of dry bulk] is the hours. What we do isn’t hard, but the hours are long. We run everything within DOT regulations, but the hours are still get to the guys. I think we’ve had more turnover because of the hours than any other issue.”

If you’re a new driver determining the best route to take in your trucking career, this should give you enough information about driving dry bulk tanks to get you started. If you do decide this is the type of driving you’d like to do, we can help you find a great opportunity.

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Terry Christofferson picks up the phone with an upbeat “Hello.” He’s calling from his sunny home just outside of Chico, California. There’s a cheery enthusiasm to his voice, but also the subtle depth of a man who knows hard work. Terry came to Drive My Way like many CDL licensed drivers—looking for a job and expressing interest in one of the many positions on our site.

Except, unlike most drivers, Terry already has a job. Just not in trucking. 

He’s a certified respiratory therapist in California, one of the first states that was reporting positive COVID-19 cases this spring. A respiratory therapist who wants to drive a semi-truck. At a time when medical professionals are desperately needed, Terry Christofferson wants to drive a semi-truck not instead of, but in addition to being a respiratory therapist. And Christofferson has the credentials to do it. Despite working a very secure job in the medical field, he made sure to maintain a CDL A license with Tanker, Hazmat, and Double/Triple endorsements for more than 30 years.

 

maintain a cdl license

Terry and his wife Sondra

Before He Became a Respiratory Therapist

Terry Christofferson grew up on a farm in a small town in North Dakota. Before he completed high school, he moved with his family to northern California. After graduating from high school, Terry started college to become a respiratory therapist. Education doesn’t come without a price tag, but Terry was no stranger to hard work. Life in a small town in the Great Plains is a strong and relentless teacher –  hard work, perseverance, and grit weave the fabric of each day and toughen the hands of the people who live there.

From growing up on a farm, Terry knew how to handle big machinery, so he accepted a position with Viking Freight working on their docks near his California home.

One afternoon, a supervisor asked him to back a semi-truck up to a loading dock. Terry could have driven most agricultural machinery blindfolded, but trucks were an entirely different story.  “Sure I can.” Terry confidently responded and jumped in the cab. One clean movement later, and the truck was up against the dock. His colleagues smirked appreciatively and laughed, “You obviously know how to drive a truck.” 

maintain a CDL licenseOnce a Truck Driver

His humble display of skilled maneuvering quickly upgraded Terry to a job hosteling for Viking Freight. Terry’s skills driving cargo around the freight yard impressed his managers, so he quickly moved up again. Even though he had only been with the company for a few years, Viking Freight sent him to driving school through their company to get his CDL A license to drive a tractor-trailer.

Terry continued driving for Viking Freight through college, and soon enough, Terry was a certified respiratory therapist with a full-time job. With the job security that accompanies the medical profession, many people might have let a truck driving license lapse. Terry wasn’t ready to do that.

“It’s just one of those things that you do… Then pretty soon, you kind of go, “Well I’ve been doing it for this long, I might as well keep going.”

I always thought, “You know, one of these days, I want to go back ‘cause I really miss working on the farm. I enjoy driving trucks… I’m going to go back and do it part-time.”

Always a Truck Driver

open road

Over the years, Terry happily accepted small driving jobs from time to time. Lending a hand here and there. An errand for a friend. He continued to maintain a CDL license. His work as a respiratory therapist remained steady, and his family was close, but every so often, the undeniable call of the open road would whisper.

“[My love of driving] is hard for me to explain. It’s just, it’s enjoyable. It brings back a lot of memories of growing up on the farm…especially if I’m driving in the agricultural industry… I enjoy driving a truck, you know, it’s not something that everybody could do…” 

Speeding down the road at 70mph while maneuvering 30 to 40 tons of truck with the precision of an engineer is no small feat. Most semi-trucks weigh 60,000 to 80,000 pounds, and as a truck driver, you have to be aware of not only your truck but also all of the (often unpredictable) drivers around you. Each time Terry finished a job for a friend, he was reminded of the exhilaration of driving a semi-truck. And each time, the thought crept in, “I should just a do a little bit more of this.”

maintain a CDL licenseDeciding to Maintain a CDL License

In the state of California, to maintain a CDL license (Commercial Driving License), drivers must submit a license application, driving history clearance, a knowledge test, a background check and fingerprinting, and a renewal fee. And so, year after year, momentum carried Terry to the doctor for the requisite physical. It led him to the DMV every two years to retake the tests for his endorsements, right on schedule. 

In time, a few decades and a few miles slipped by. One year, on his regular trip to the DMV, Terry thought it might be time to set aside his CDL license.

He asked the DMV staff, “Well what if I just, I don’t want to do it anymore? What would happen if I decided down the line to go back and get it?” The man’s one-line response settled his decision. “You would have to start from scratch.”

Terry renewed his license

Is truck driving a job or a way of life? Driving is certainly one way to pay the bills, but so is being a mechanic or practicing medicine or starting a business. For many drivers, especially those long haul truckers who drive OTR (Over The Road), the open road is ingrained in the core of their identity. It’s the freedom of open roads and a clear sky. The precision and finesse of mastering a vehicle with immense power and knowing how to handle it, just so. For Terry, each drive in a big rig is also personal. It’s a bond back to his childhood on a North Dakota farm. Agricultural work, in particular, has always connected him through years and miles to the small North Dakota town he once called home.

medical professionalsTwo Essential Professions

When 2020 started, cheerful New Year’s parties rang through the country. Blissfully unaware of the months to come, no one in the United States rang in the decade with even the shadow of a global pandemic. By March, COVID-19 was sweeping from the ports of the coasts to the center of the heartland leaving sickness and death as unwelcome guests in big cities and small towns alike. Storefronts stand empty and the number of Americans filing for unemployment applications steadily climbs. Millions of Americans are suddenly working from home, and we’ve become acutely aware of the essential professions that are keeping this country moving forward. 

Medical professionals and truck drivers are at the top of the list

Four years from now, Terry Christofferson will be happily retired and traveling the world with his wife. But before then, he wants to join his fellow drivers on the road. “Truck drivers are one of those backbones of society that are really being highlighted right now. Absolutely amazing. I mean, every truck driver out there right now should pat themselves on the back… And when I watch it, even though I’m not actually out there doing it with them right now, I still feel pride hearing that on the news.”

Time to Drive

For Terry, it’s time to hit the road. He’s not leaving his job as a respiratory therapist—instead, he’s planning to drive on his days off. After decades of working to maintain a CDL license with several endorsements, Terry is in conversation with a California freight company. In a perfect symmetry that calls back to his Great Plains childhood, he’s hoping to haul agricultural products.

As we wrap up the call, Terry tells me about his wife, children, and grandson. He has a daughter who is becoming a nurse and a son in the construction industry. It’s clear he couldn’t be prouder of them. Their chosen lines of work stand as a living testament to his own duality. Before we hang up, he reiterates his appreciation for all the drivers who are working and delivering essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Definitely proud of all the truckers out there. It’s been awesome to listen to them getting interviewed in a profession that doesn’t get recognized enough. And it’s really nice to see them getting recognized.”

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When someone says they’re a truck driver, some people might think that’s all there is to it. But if you’re a driver, no matter if you’re in your first year or a seasoned veteran, you know that there are many types of driving jobs. Today’s spotlight is on being a tanker truck driver. What do drivers love about hauling tanker trucks? What would they change? Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about becoming a tanker truck driver.

The Pros

1. Good pay for the industry

Tanker truck drivers average $20.32/hour across the United States. That’s higher than the average hourly wage for many other driving positions. As with any job, pay increases with endorsements and experience.

Some tanker truck drivers may have longer hours. The good news is that most of these jobs are also hourly. If you have a long run, you’ll get paid for your time. 

The pay also depends on the material you haul. Hazmat driving typically earns more because of the experience required and extra job risks. 

2. Good benefits

Not all tankers drive Hazmat, but many do. Because being a tanker truck driver is considered slightly more dangerous than other types of CDL driving, the benefits are also better. Good health insurance, life insurance, and vacation days are all standard for tanker drivers

3. Typically short load/unload times

Loading and unloading a tanker truck is done with a big hose. While you might wait for hours to get your dry van or reefer unloaded, you’re usually in and out in 15 – 20 minutes when unloading a tanker. Getting loaded usually takes around 45 minutes. 

4. Many drivers are home every night

Tanker truck jobs are typically regional or local hauls. Frequent home time is a huge perk of being a tanker truck driver. You get to spend more time with your family and stay closer to home while doing a job you love.

If home time is a priority for you, becoming a tanker truck driver might be a great way to be home every night or nearly every night. 

5. Can be no touch freight

As a Hazmat driver, you’re often no touch. Frequently, your clients will take care of loading and unloading, so you don’t have to worry about heavy loads or the liability of handling freight. You may still be hooking up hoses, but you won’t have to tarp a load on a windy day.

The Cons:

1. Driving takes some adjustment time

When driving a tanker truck that isn’t full to the top, there is room for your load to move when you start and stop. This is called “surge.” Basically, if you slow down too quickly, the liquid in your load will be a little bit behind. A moment later, you might feel the liquid slam into the front of the tank. The force can be enough to slide your whole truck forward several feet! It’s challenging at first, but most drivers say they adapt quickly and use safe driving habits.

2. Can be more dangerous than other hauls

If you’re a tanker truck driver, there’s a good chance you’re hauling Hazmat. Whether that’s chemicals, hot oil, gasoline, or something else, it does increase your risk.

Normal activities like checking your load and your driving time can be more dangerous.

Even if you’re hauling food grade or other non-hazardous materials, climbing on top of a tanker truck in icy conditions can be dangerous.

DOT officer

3. Draws more attention from DOT 

While there aren’t any studies that officially confirm this, some drivers report that Hazmat drivers tend to draw more attention from DOT. This also may depend on the reputation of the company you’re driving for and the region you’re driving in.

4. Safety equipment

If you’re a hazmat driver, you will have a few extra safety requirements. A big one is the uniform you wear. If you’re a tanker driver, you typically wear fire resistant coveralls and an H2 monitor as protection from toxic fumes.

If you live in a hot part of the country, it’s not always comfortable, but it’s a small price to pay to keep yourself a little safer.

During load and unload times, you will also wear safety glasses and a helmet with a face shield to reduce your risk. 

The Take Away

As with any job, there are pros and cons to being a tanker truck driver. If home time and good pay are a high priority, this might be the perfect job for you. There are extra risks for tanker truck drivers, but there are also specific rules to help drivers stay safe. Overall, most drivers who haul tanker trucks say they love it and are never going back!

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Apollos Water

Today’s Job of the Day comes from Apollos Water

Apollos Water is a family owned business located in Battle Ground, IN. Apollos offers bulk liquid waste removal for hazardous and non-hazardous waste transportation: 6,000 vac tanker, +500 CFM and +600 vacuum pump, box truck, roll-off, vac boxes, flatbed for totes and or drum removal, pneumatic tanker, etc.

We are seeking an immediate full time CDL A OTR Tanker Driver in Battle Ground, IN to make deliveries over the road Indiana statewide area and some out of state runs. Works Mon-Fri  and will pick up liquid waste products. Materials include used oils and waters. We provide the truck/tanker. You are able to store it at your location. We are looking for an energetic, dependable driver ready to join our team!

Job Highlights:

  • Hiring 100 miles around Battle Ground, IN
  • Medical, Dental, and Vision Benefits available immediately
  • Simple IRA once employee qualifies
  • Employer paid $25K Life Insurance Policy
  • Salary: $70,000-75,000
    • Pay is bi-weekly via direct deposit
    • Now offering a bonus of $1,000 upon 90 day review following good safety standards and performance
  • Fuel card provided
  • Trucks are manual and automatics with sleepers
  • Home every weekend!

Job Requirements:

  • CDL Class A License with Tanker/Hazardous Endorsement
  • 2 Years of CDLA driving experience but tanker driving experience is preferred with clean MVR
  • MUST Pass DOT background check & DOT drug screens
  • Medical Certificate Required
  • DUI/DWI in the last 3 years not permitted
  • EDI Logs Kept
  • Must be able to read, write and speak English
  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Job requires you to hook-up and unhook hoses to the tankers. Some climbing required.

Interested in applying?

Learn more about the job requirements, benefits, pay and more.

Learn More and Apply

Truck drivers are required to get a tanker endorsement (Type N or X) in order to haul large loads of liquid cargo.

N endorsement is required if you plan to haul 1,000 gallons+ of liquid or gas cargo.

X endorsement combines tanker endorsement with HAZMAT endorsement, allowing drivers to haul large quantities of liquid hazardous materials.

Getting this endorsement takes some extra time and money to complete the process. There is a written test that you must pass as part of the process. Drivers also need to gain the skills required to handle large volumes of liquid cargo. And of course, you already need to possess a CDL truck driver’s license. However, deciding to get a tanker endorsement along with your CDL license can be very beneficial. Here are 3 key reasons CDL truck drivers get a tanker endorsement.

More Opportunities

Companies that ship any type of large quantities of liquids or gasses, require drivers that have tanker endorsements. By going through the process to get this endorsement, truckers automatically make their applications more attractive than drivers that aren’t endorsed. This opens doors to jobs that require drivers to have a tanker endorsement. And gives those truckers an advantage when someone is scanning through job applications seeking tanker drivers.

More Money

Drivers with any additional skills and endorsements often find that they are paid more than drivers without additional endorsements. Driving a tanker requires additional safety skills due to the unstable nature of hauling liquids. Therefore, drivers with tanker endorsements many times are some of the highest paid truckers on the road. So, the payoff of seeing those paychecks increase certainly outweigh the up-front costs to pay for a tanker endorsement and training.

Required for Additional Endorsements

Getting a tanker endorsement sometimes requires the CDL truck driver also get a HAZMAT endorsement at the same time. Having this X endorsement even further separates a driver from other applicants when filling out a job application. Having tanker and HAZMAT can further highlight your application, and dedication to your career. And give those drivers access to some of the highest paying jobs.

Getting your tanker license can be very beneficial to any CDL truck driver. Regardless of what stage you are in your career. With a tanker endorsement the job pools is bigger, the pay is likely higher, and overall earning potential as a trucker increases.

If you’re looking for tanker truck driving jobs, complete your driver profile here, and be sure to include that you have that endorsement. We can match you to a great new job that best fits your lifestyle and driving preferences!

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