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N is for Nancy, Nora…and Tanker?

Hopefully you filed your income tax refund on time this past week, and hopefully you are going to receive a refund. The ITEA knows you have a lot of plans for oodles of money you loaned the federal government in 2013, but here’s another option which only costs $5: a tanker endorsement for your CDL. Yeah that’s right, $5. One of the best deals the State of Illinois has to offer, but like all things truck law, it’s not always quite that easy!

The first thing to understand about CDL endorsements is what most people do not understand (including some courses which actually train truck enforcement officers) – only a CDL can receive an endorsement. Generally speaking, drivers of vehicles carrying a liquid or gaseous tank with a capacity of 1,000 gallons or more are required to have a tanker endorsement on their CDL. However, this is predicated upon the vehicle being operated required a CDL in the first place.

For law enforcement instruction to publicize a blanket “1,000 gallons” as a tanker requirement is irresponsible. When a driver is cited for not having the proper endorsement on a CDL, it is written under the same section of law (with the same penalty) as not having a CDL at all! In Illinois, this is a Class-A misdemeanor. Many local police agencies require officers to make custodial arrests of misdemeanor traffic violations. Handcuffs, towed vehicles, fingerprints, mug shots, state and federal arrest numbers. It’s big deal and requires a greater understanding that just a generic “1,000 gallons”.

For instance, a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds in Illinois is required to have a Class-C non-CDL. A police officer stops the vehicle after finding independent probable cause and determines there is a 1,500 gallon water tank bolted on the chassis. The driver does not need a tanker endorsement in this situation because the vehicle does not require a CDL.

The same officer then stops another truck with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds carrying the same tank. Since this vehicle requires a CDL, the driver must also have a tanker endorsement. It may seem ludicrous that a difference in one pound between GVWR’s creates such a requirement, but lines have to be drawn somewhere, and this is where the federal government drew them.

The criteria for the tank endorsement does just rely on the size of one tank, but also the aggregate total of tanks being carried on the truck. This is a two-prong test. First the sum total of all the tank capacities must be 1,000 gallons or more. Second, each tank being counted towards the 1,000 gallon total must individually be more than 119 gallons. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created this rule to address the growing use of intermediate bulk containers.

Just like any truck law can be difficult to understand, there are always exceptions to the law. Take for instance a cement mixer. An average cement mixer drum can hold up to eleven yards of cement. Eleven cubic yards is equivalent to 2221 gallons, therefore being in excess of 1,000 gallons. Wet cement is for sure a liquid, but guess what? A cement mixer driver is exempt from the tanker endorsement.

Another exemption are dry-bulk containers. Dry-bulk semi-trailers have an average capacity of nearly 8,000 gallons. Is it a “tank”? Yes. Does it carry liquids or gas? No…it carries dry materials. Therefore, it is exempt from the tanker endorsement.

Whoa! What if you are a CDL holder operating a CDL worthy truck and have to pick up a load of empty tanks to be transported for sale? Worry not – you are not required to have a tanker endorsement either. Neither is the farmer who loads his portable water tank on the truck to transport it out to the field. As long as he is not watering off the truck while operating on the highway, he is exempt from the endorsement as well.

So what does it take to get a tanker endorsement? Well, as previously mentioned, bring you CDL and $5 to your local Illinois Secretary of State CDL facility and ask to take the tanker test. The SOS staff will have you sit and a computer and take a short test about knowledge and safe operation of tanks on commercial vehicles.

Pass the test, and voila! You have a tanker endorsement.

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