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The tentacles of tanker trucking’s driver shortage — Taking the Hire Road

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Ryan Streblow, president and CEO of National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC)  joins this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road to discuss the state of the tanker trucking segment with host Jeremy Reymer, founder and CEO of DriverReach.

The NTTC is an advocacy and education group focused on the tanker truck segment, a segment that Streblow said represents 6% of all trucks on the road but hauls 30% of all tonnage.

“There is nothing that we focus on without safety being the priority,” Streblow said. “For the association’s carrier fleet members as well as various suppliers, safety is the forethought every single time.”

Streblow said NTTC has pushed strongly since 2018 to obtain a 10% axle variance in its dry bulk segment. He noted that load shifts affect tanker trucks differently than dry bulk trailers — in the event of a hard brake event, for instance.

“A lot of our sector’s carriers will underload their product just so that if the load shifts they’re not over their axle weight. In doing so, that’s adding more vehicles on the road every year because they’re underloading the product,” Streblow said, adding that increased tanker trailers on the road increase the likelihood for additional incidents.

Railroad crossings is another area of concern for NTTC, specifically at highway rail grade crossings. As hazmat haulers are required to stop at crossings, Streblow and his team are looking at what can be done to reduce rear-end collisions with tanker trucks.

“It takes a really skilled professional to be able to do this job,” Streblow said. “A lot of our carriers, if they’re hauling hazardous material and based on their hiring requirements, will look for a professional driver that has a minimum of two years experience. On top of that, they must get a hazmat endorsement, tank endorsement and any other requirements based on the commodities that they’re hauling. These drivers are some of the best out there.”

The volatility of each load requires that the tanker sector’s drivers perform nothing short of exceptionally, meaning not just anyone can get behind the wheel. But Streblow said this niche sector’s driver pool is reaching crisis levels.

A noted culprit is the pandemic, which spurred many drivers to leave the industry altogether, but another issue, he said, was low attendance at driver schools this past year. If no one is willing to haul, especially in the fuel hauler sector, it has implications for nearly every American.

“We’re talking about the number one commodity in the world — petroleum — so we’re going to feel the pinch at the pump a lot quicker than maybe some of these other commodities,” Streblow said.

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One Comment

  1. Mike Fantacone

    What a joke, who’s side is the NTTC on? Surely not the driver. Fuel transportation is contrived of 3 steps; loading, driving, unloading. Any mistake in either step could result in serious injurie or death yet the company’s treat the driver no different than a postal or grocery driver. Even the word driver is an insult and is used to minimize the position as if your hauling widgets. You need special endorsements, training and clearance just to access the loading racks. Any tanker driver can easily replace parcel or grocery drivers. It doesn’t go the other way. Most “titled” job holders in carrier company’s can’t even step in to cover if drivers walk off the job. The fuel tanker drivers control ALL movement. There are no first responders without fuel.
    There should be a national fuel haulers union. The company’s get away with paying local drivers straight pay (no overtime) based on a DOT loop hole. It’s a scam.
    How about standing behind the fuel haulers instead of the company’s that are exploiting them.
    Stop the movement of fuel, stop everything.
    The industry isn’t short of drivers. After the tyrannical lockdown, the fuel haulers who had to find other work realized coming back to this dead-end industry wasn’t worth it.

    Mike Fantacone
    562 519 4659

    I don’t answer emails.

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Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.