What is a Tanker Truck? (A Concise Guide)

If you’re searching for a vehicle to transport liquids and gas such as petrol, diesel, chemicals or even beverages, you should be looking at a tanker truck, also known as a tank truck. This vehicle can transport large liquid hauls, especially dangerous gases, on the road. Depending on your individual requirements, these carriers can take small or medium loads.

Keep reading if you want to find out more about tanker trucks, their history and the different types available. We’ll also talk about the different sizes tanker trucks come in plus answer some frequently asked questions about this type of carrier.

What is a Tanker Truck?

A tanker truck is used to carry liquids or gases on the road. Various tank designs are dependent on the type of liquid being transported. They can be pressurised or non-pressurised, insulated or not and can carry single or multiple loads. Tanker trucks should only be operated by experienced truckers.

History of Tanker Trucks

In the 1880s, oil was transported in cans on horse-drawn carts! Fast forward to 30 years later when Standard Oil, an American oil production, transportation and refining company introduced the first motor tanker. In 1920, Anglo American Oil brought in underground tanks and delivery tankers to the UK.

Soon afterwards, in 1921, Pickford Oil joined the foray into tanker trucks. The company invested in 1,000 (4,500 litres) tanker trucks, increasing its fleet to include 3,600 (16,000 litres) carriers in the 1930s. Other countries were slower on the uptake with New Zealand welcoming their first petrol tanker in 1927 to the sounds of a brass band parade!

Different Types of Tanker Trucks

There are different types of tank trucks available and knowing their features will help you decide which one you need for your specific business. Keep in mind that more developed countries have specific safety standards that should be noted when picking a tanker truck for your carrier needs.

Oil Tanker Truck

Oil tanker trucks are designed to store and transport petroleum products to filling stations. They’re normally larger in size than some other trucks and constructed with steel or aluminium materials. The shape of oil tanker trucks varies, being either semi-elliptical or cylindrical.

Aircraft refuellers are a type of oil tanker truck used to transport aviation fuel to a stationary aircraft. These refuellers have fuel hoses that are attached to the aircraft’s tanks for refuelling. They’re designed for both overwing and underwing refuelling functions and some come with scissor lift platforms.

When choosing an aircraft refueller or oil tanker truck, consider their volume capacities which can differ depending on their size and purpose.

Vacuum Tanker

A vacuum tanker is specifically designed to pneumatically suck up liquids. Its features include a tank and a pump and can be used to suck up slurries or sludges from underground locations. Once the liquid is pumped into the tank, the vacuum tanker truck is driven to another location, such as a treatment plant, to offload the contents.

Examples of common liquids pumped and transported by this type of tanker truck include:

  • Fecal sludge from septic tanks or pit latrines
  • Industrial waste
  • Animal waste from livestock facilities

Depending on what you need, vacuum tankers can be equipped with high-pressure pumps and water-jetting machines for advanced functionality and improved performance.

Common Large Tanker Trucks

Oil tanker trucks are the most common type of large carrier. However, larger tank trucks can be used for transporting liquified loads such as molasses, milk, vegetable oils, liquid sugar, wine, water and industrial chemicals. They’re typically constructed with stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminium and fiberglass reinforced plastic materials depending on the type of fluid being stored and transported.

The inner tank can be compartmentalised for carrying multiple, mixed loads and is a common feature of oil tanker trucks, transporting different gas grades to a filling station. Tanks with multiple compartments make it easier to transport different petroleum products at the same time.

Common Small Tanker Trucks

Smaller tanker trucks are normally designed to carry up to 11,000 litres of liquids. You can commonly use them to transport lightweight liquids or gases to homes, retailers and other businesses trading in or using liquids such as liquified petroleum gas or liquid propane.

Vacuum tankers and aircraft refuellers can fall into this category, depending on their size.

Sizes of Different Tanker Trucks

When selecting a tanker truck, it’s important to take note of its size and volume capacity. These will vary depending on the truck’s specifications and regulations stipulated by your local government. Restrictions are placed on commercial vehicles, including tanker trucks, for the safety of all road users and this does impact the size of liquids carriers.

The size range of tanker trucks is quite vast. Smaller lorries can carry 1,000 litre baby tankers while others can transport 11,600 litre tanks. Larger trucks (up to 12 m) can haul up to 27,000 litre tanks. Semi-trailers measuring up to 18 m, including the trailer, can also haul up to 27,000 litres of liquids.

The maximum capacity of a tanker truck depends on the density of the liquids being hauled. A typical oil tanker truck can haul 250 barrels of oil, equivalent to just over 39,747 litres. The capacity of water tank trucks can vary from 1,890 litres to 43,910 litres.

Tanker Trucks For Your Industrial Needs

Tanker trucks play a vital role in the economy when storing and transporting various liquids and gases. Purchasing a tanker truck for your business depends on a number of factors such as the type of liquids or petroleum products being hauled, volume capacity and safety regulations. Whether you’re looking for premium oil tanker trucks or vacuum trucks, complying with road transportation safety standards is essential.

Give Syntech Engineers PTE Ltd a call on +65 6266 1088 if you’re looking to design or fit a tanker truck. Our headquarters are based in Singapore and we operate in other South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Tanker trucks are the way to go if you’re in the business of hauling liquids or gases safely. Please share this article if you’ve found it informative and interesting!


1. What is carried in a tanker truck?

A range of liquids and gases can be carried in a tanker truck. These include gasoline, diesel and other liquid fuel products. They can be used to carry alcohol and most flammable or combustible fluids. Tanker trucks are sometimes used to transport non-flammable liquids such as milk or molasses.

These carriers are useful for storing and transporting most liquids and the tanks are designed to handle mildly corrosive products. Various materials are used to construct the tank depending on the type of liquid or gas being carried. Tanker trucks can’t store or transport pressurised gases or dry bulk cargo.

2. How much volume does a tanker truck carry?

The volume capacity of a tanker truck depends on its size and other specifications as well as government regulations. In the U.S, the volume capacity is controlled by the 80,000 lb. gross weight limit for trucks. For smaller tanker trucks, the maximum capacity is 13,638 litres while larger carriers are restricted to 52,735 litres.

Oil tanker trucks in countries such as Singapore can range between 1,500 litres and 27,000 litres.

3. Do tankers carry petrol and diesel?

Tankers do carry fuels and gases such as diesel, petrol, paraffin, kerosene and gas oil. Different grades and types such as 4-star, super unleaded and unleaded, must be treated differently and listed accordingly on documents when being stored and transported.

The tanker truck is constructed with materials such as mild steel or aluminium that can handle this specific type of fluid for both storage and transportation purposes. A petroleum and flammable transportation license is compulsory in countries such as Singapore for businesses storing and transporting fuels in tanker trucks.

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