Tanker Driver Jobs: Opportunities and Qualifications
The unique skills of truckers are essential to our economy. 54.2% of Canadian exports to the United States are moved by truck while 71.5% of imports to Canada from the US are supplied through trucking businesses. Major industries (construction, healthcare, utilities, agriculture, retail, storage, chemical) depend on the services provided by truck drivers. A shortage of truckers is impacting economic activities in Canada, impeding our economic recovery.
Increased rates of retirement, high turnover rates, high training costs, the rapidly aging driver population, and difficulty recruiting truckers, contribute to predictions that Canada could face a shortage of 25,000 truck drivers by 2025. This situation creates a growing demand for tanker drivers in Canada, increasing the number of tanker driver jobs available. Tanker truck drivers’ expertise in handling complex situations (driving challenges, dangerous loads, stress, physical work) and their ability to adapt to changing conditions (shifting regulations, road conditions, variety of loads, timeline alterations, safety circumstances) make them an invaluable link in the supply chain.
What is a Tanker Driver?
A tanker truck driver is an individual who drives a tank truck, a vehicle with a vast, horizontal, cylindrical, canister used to transport liquids (oil, milk, alcohol, gasoline, molasses, juice, wine, water, liquid sugar, diesel, propane, other flammable or combustible liquids), gasses ( chlorine, natural gas, carbon dioxide), dry bulk loads (sand, gravel, plastic/wood pellets) and other hazardous materials. A tanker truck has a pumping system for off-loading/loading. These vehicles come in a variety of sizes to accommodate diverse cargo and can convey from 1,000 to 11,000 gallons.
Tanker drivers perform many crucial tasks that call for focus, skill, and training. They require a Class 1 driver’s license. This permit allows them to operate any vehicle other than a motorcycle; tractor-trailers, semi-trailers, truck-trailers commercial trucks, haulers, delivery vehicles, 2-axle vehicles, RVs, all single motor vehicles, recreational conveyances, motor coaches, taxis, school buses, transit buses, ambulances. It also permits them to tow a trailer with one or more axles.
Becoming a tanker truck driver
Not all truck drivers are tanker drivers as driving a tank truck has specialized requirements.
The following are the basic qualifications typically needed for employment as a tanker driver in BC and Alberta.
- Completion of high school/grade 12
- Completion of accredited driver training program (through vocational school or community college).
- A Class 3 or D license-required for driving straight-body trucks
- A Class 1 or A license-required for driving long combination vehicles
- Air brake endorsement (if operating trucks fitted with air brakes)
- H2S Alive and Standard First Aid Tickets often required
- Often require Hazmat, tanker, and doubles/triples endorsements
- May be required to have 2-4 years of experience in a related field(s)
- 1 to 3 months on-the-job-training
- Typically need soft skills ( physical health, hearing ability, hand-eye coordination).
Tanker truck driver training
Canada has many top trucking schools ready to prepare potential truckers for success in a variety of settings; cross-border, long-haul runs, dry van, refrigeration van, reefer, specialized driving (flatbed, tanker, fuel hauling). These programs range from five to twelve weeks, with prices ranging from $5,300 to $15,400. Following are some of Canada’s top truck driver training institutions/colleges.
- Globe Driving Academy (Calgary AB) is a reliable, friendly driver training center focusing on skills/knowledge and building confidence as a safe professional driver. Their customized driver lesson plans involve the latest equipment and strict safety protocols. They assist students with job search and placement.
- Big Rig Driving School(Surrey BC) provides an encouraging and comfortable learning experience with top safety standards. They have an extensive Class 1 program with up to 60 hours of private driving instruction (including the air brake course), up to 50 hours in the classroom, up to 25 hours of in-yard training, and up to 5 hours for course review,
perfect for aspiring tanker drivers.
- Valley Truck Driving School (coastal BC-Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Surrey, Langley, and Chilliwack) has operated since 1995 providing customizable programs for drivers of all experience levels and ages. Their professional instructors ensure students feel confident and comfortable. They offer programs for people with/without experience including one- on-one training with a strong focus on accident prevention and road safety. This driving program includes 150 hours (14 theory sessions-54 hours, 17 in-cab sessions-66 hours, eight in-yard sessions-16 hours, and 2 mountain driving trips-20 hours).
- Professional Truck Driver Training School (Winnipeg MB) offers a comprehensive training program focusing on professionalism and safety. They deliver hands-on education, build driver confidence, train safety procedures, encourage mastery of driving techniques, and spotlight rules and regulations.
- Humber College (Toronto, ON) has a driving course designed/delivered by experienced trucking professionals. This course combines theoretical learning with applied (hands- on) experience and prepares drivers for dry-van, tanker, flatbed, long haul, and heavy haul trucking. Students are instructed on driving cross-border, delivery and pick up of a variety of freight, drop trailer loads, and LTL freight. With a 96 % employment rate among graduates, this seven-week program makes Humber College a leading school for tanker truck drivers.
- TransCanada College (East coast-Miramichi, Sussex, St. John, Oromocto, Moncton) has been in operation since 1989, priding itself on developing a strong reputation with Atlantic Trucking companies, having excellent industry relationships, and a 95 % job placement rate of graduates. They ensure students have received the training needed to immediately enter the trucking industry. This program is composed of 12 weeks with a minimum of 100 hours of interactive in-class safety training, a minimum of 80 hours of practical time, and a four-week real-life internship with a Transport Carrier Partner making it an ideal choice for prospective tanker truck drivers.
- A2Z Driving School (Kitchener, ON) prepares students to drive trucks and buses through one-on-one behind-the-wheel instruction. Professional instructors offer training on up-to-date equipment ensuring the highest standards of learning. Students receive essential skills for tractor-trailer driving (speed control, lane changes, steering control, reversing, parking, left and right turning, night driving, driving in bad weather).
The daily life of a tanker driver
Tanker truck drivers operate specialized vehicles, conveying gasses, liquids, and hazardous materials. Job responsibilities/duties vary from one position to the next. The following are typical duties for a tanker driver.
- Operate safely, following safety laws and speed limits
- Inspect the tank truck, before and after loading (systems, equipment, signals, tires, lights, brakes. etc.)
- Complete routine truck maintenance (nonemergency and emergency)
- Plan routes (consider road conditions, traffic delays, and weather)
- Empty/fill tanks and/or supervise these procedures
- Check loads for leaks/perform safety checks
- Remain up to date on changing/new government regulations regarding transport of hazardous materials
- Deliver a variety of materials/loads
- Employ industry-standard HAZMAT procedures
- Operate necessary equipment (CB radio, truck cab computer, electronic log)
- Unhook/hook converter dollies/trailers to/from a tractor-trailer
- Communicate with other drivers, company dispatchers, customers, and safety departments
- Accurately complete paperwork (record cargo information, hours of service, fuel consumption, distance traveled, etc.)
- Maintain a log book and complete bills of lading
- Make sure receivers sign for deliveries
Tanker truck drivers need to be highly skilled and attentive as they operate specialized vehicles and often haul dangerous and/or flammable products. Loading/unloading a tank truck requires a unique skill set and runs the risk of spills and inhalation of hazardous materials. The pump used for this process needs constant care and maintenance. Tanker drivers must learn to shift with the movement of product as liquid loads may move when starting, stopping, and changing gears. Some tankers have a high center of gravity, making them susceptible to crosswinds and tricky to haul. A washout of the tank is necessary after each load.
Advantages of being a tanker driver
There are many types of truck driving jobs but being a tanker driver comes with unique advantages.
- Higher pay: Tanker truck drivers are generally paid more than reefer and/or van drivers as they are reimbursed for non-driving activities (unloading, loading, inspecting equipment, etc.). A tanker driver’s salary typically increases with experience.
- Benefits: Tanker drivers generally receive a benefits plan (health, dental, paid holiday time, vision care, life insurance, RRSP, and/or savings plans). Some companies also offer perks (gym membership, relocation assistance, safety bonuses, driver recognition/appreciation, etc.)
- Work-life balance: Many tanker drivers have local and/or regional routes. This means shorter hauls, allowing more time to spend with family, relax, and/or pursue a hobby.
- Work environment: Tanker truck drivers work independently (little or no supervision) allowing them to work around their individual needs (take breaks when needed, listen to music/podcasts, etc.).
- Short unload/load times: It typically takes only fifteen to twenty minutes to unload a tanker and approximately 45 minutes to load. Sometimes customers/clients take care of the unloading/loading procedures.
- Job security: If a tanker driver drives safely and operates well (meets deadlines, maintains vehicle, follows safety protocols) job security is often guaranteed.
- Abundant opportunities: As tanker truck drivers convey essential products (oil, milk,
alcohol, gasoline, molasses, juice, wine, water, liquid sugar, diesel, propane, other flammable/combustible liquids, chlorine, natural gas, carbon dioxide, other hazardous materials, sand, gravel, plastic/wood pellets, etc.), there are generally abundant employment opportunities. Drivers need only check online to discover a variety of open positions.
Skills, qualities, endorsements/licenses of an excellent tanker driver
As well as requirements for specific licenses and endorsements, there are some common qualities and skills that make a good tanker driver.
- A commercial driver’s license, proving the ability to responsibly operate a tanker truck.
- A Hazmat endorsement that ensures a tanker driver has training in the safe transport of hazardous materials.
- A tanker endorsement that allows a truck driver to operate a tanker truck.
- Air brake training, demonstrating a trucker’s ability to quickly and smoothly slow/stop a tanker truck.
- Doubles/triples endorsement, allowing a driver to operate a truck with two or three attached trailers.
- Pre-trip inspection ability: Competence at performing pre-trip inspection (checking for adequate fluid levels, the condition of hoses, belts, wires, air compressor, gearbox, steering linkage, water pump, alternator, brakes, tires, coupling system, lights, reflectors, release/locking pins, emergency kit, etc.) ensuring equipment is in good working order and the truck is safe to operate.
- Ability to couple/uncouple tanker trailers, efficiently and safely.
- Proficiency in driving in many weather conditions to reduce danger and ensure delivery.
- Ability to maneuver safely when transporting shifting liquid loads.
- Customer service abilities: Able to clearly and courteously communicate with clients/customers.
- Ability to work independently, keeping accurate records, and meeting deadlines.
- Competence in attending to detail to ensure safety when transporting hazardous materials.
- Technical knowledge specific to tanker trucks.
What are the challenges of tanker truck driving?
Driving a tanker truck has all the same hazards as operating any large truck but has added unique challenges.
- Potential exposure to hazardous chemicals: Tanker trucks often convey dangerous substances. Some chemicals cause burns on contact. Caustic chemicals may damage the eyes and lungs of a trucker while flammable/explosive substances create dangerous situations when driving. Tanker drivers risk exposure to these substances in case of accident and/or difficulties loading and unloading. Due to the type of material hauled, tanker drivers are often required to wear safety glasses, fire-resistant uniforms, and/or respirators when pumping loads.
- Leaks: Though tanker trucks are manufactured with systems intended to prevent/reduce leaks, leakage may occur, increasing the risk of accidents and exposing the tanker driver/others to hazardous chemicals.
- Sloshing, shifting cargo may unbalance a truck, increasing the likelihood of rolling, particularly on mountain roads and when making sharp turns. A tanker truck driver must be ever vigilant in keeping their vehicle under control, especially when starting, stopping, and/or changing lanes.
- Under loaded/improperly loaded tanker trucks pose an increased danger of shifting creating more risk for tanker drivers.
- Strict regulations: Because of the type of materials transported, tanker truck drivers must follow stringent safety regulations/protocols.
- Stress: Tanker drivers have many of the same stresses as other truckers (rigid deadlines, difficult weather conditions, construction delays, traffic, time away from home, incorrect directions, etc.) with an added tension caused by transporting hazardous/flammable goods.
Career path and advancement opportunities for tanker drivers
There are many career path options for tanker truck drivers.
- Company drivers may work their way to supervisory positions, training roles, and/or truck maintenance duties.
- Owner-operators may expand their businesses with more employees/trucks, consult with transportation companies, enter fuel refinery management, and/or undertake commercial vehicle maintenance.
Application and training process for a tanker driver
For those interested in becoming a tanker truck driver, some basic steps will assist you in preparing for driving and finding a position.
- Research tanker truck driver duties and responsibilities to ensure you’re prepared and that this career is right for you.
- Undergo a medical examination to ensure you’re physically fit for the job of tanker driver.
- Obtain a valid truck driver’s license: A Class 1 driver’s license is required. Obtain it through the motor vehicles branch. You must already have a class 5 or 6 license.
- Complete a Training course offered by an approved driver training school/institute.
This course typically involves:
a. theoretical learning
b. air brake training
c. practical training
d. in-yard training
e. on-highway driving
f. commercial vehicle safety
- Obtain certification/endorsements (Air brake, transportation of dangerous goods, doubles-triples endorsement, tanker endorsement)
- Research the job market, gaining an understanding of the current need and locations for truck drivers.
- Prepare a resume: Include your endorsements, qualifications, experience, certifications, references, and driver abstract.
- View current opportunities Browse online job boards for postings (Job Bank Canada, Indeed Canada, Linkedin, Workopolis, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, WorkBC, WowJobs, SimplyHired, JobSora, Trovit, etc.). Check out industry-specific websites. Consult with recruitment agencies. Reach out to companies/businesses you’re interested in working with. Ask your professional network for advice and/or suggestions.
- Apply for jobs you’re interested in acquiring.
- Prepare for interviews: To improve the possibility of getting a position. Practice the most common questions asked, preparing to answer inquiries about your qualifications, personality, and experience.
a. Why do you want to become/why are you a tanker driver?
b. What skills do you think make a successful tanker truck driver?
c. What do you think are the greatest challenges of a tanker truck driver?
d. What parts/aspect of the job appeals to you the most?
e. What are your career goals?
f. What are the critical safety concerns you have as a tanker truck driver?
g. How do you feel about the current economy/state of the trucking industry?
h. Have you ever had a vehicle accident?
i. How do you handle careless drivers when on the road?
j. How do you maintain your truck?
k. How do you deal with angry clients/customers?
l. How do you maintain alertness on a long haul?
m. How do you ensure that timelines are kept?
n. What skills do you possess that make you a good tanker driver?
o. What is your greatest strength as a tanker truck driver?
p. What are Canada’s Hours-of-Service Regulations? Why are they in place? Do
you agree with these regulations?
q. Are you proficient with electronic logging devices?
r. Why do you want to work for this company?
s. How do you handle stress?
- Attend interviews when contacted.
Tanker drivers are an integral cog in the system that keeps our economy moving and growing.
The present shortage of truck drivers means an increasing number of tanker driver jobs are available. If you have a class 1 driver’s license and you’re up for a challenging, satisfying job, consider a career as a tanker truck driver.