When most people spot a fuel delivery truck on the highway, their first thought is to not get too close. Fuel transport can be dangerous, but it’s a lot safer than it was in the beginning. From tin cans on the bed of a wagon to the sleek lines of the modern delivery truck, fuel transport is much more sophisticated—and safe—than ever before.
The first forms of fuel delivery were horse drawn vehicles that carried barrels to their delivery points. Slow and unsafe, this severely limited the growth of the petroleum industry. But after 1880, tank wagons with fuel containers on the back increased the capacity, even though they were still horse-drawn. In 1910, Standard Oil began using motorized tankers. Other companies followed suit.
However, as innovations increased, oil companies began utilizing railroads and underground pipelines to transport more fuel, farther and faster. Tank trucks were used for shorter distance fuel transport, and became increasingly popular in the early 1900s. The first tanker was invented in 1905 by a company called Anglo-American, a subsidiary of Standard Oil.
In the 1920’s, these trucks began displaying the names of the companies whose oil they were transporting.
The tanks were originally round, and occasionally rectangular. The cylindrical and elliptical-shaped tanks we’re familiar with today were created during World War 1. By the end of the war, all tanks were reconfigured to one of the two shapes, both for tank trucks and tank cars that brought fuel by rail.
The war sent fuel production and transportation into overdrive. Fuel as well as crude oil had to be transported overseas as quickly as possible, by any means necessary. This included pipelines, tank cars and trucks, ocean and lake oil tankers, and air/sea refueling, among others. Fuel delivery lines became a vital link that kept the troops moving, working and fed. In France, the Red Ball Express was operated primarily by African-American drivers. This group hauled all manner of petroleum products, including gasoline, motor oil and grease in drums at high speeds.
Trucks were in use nearly 24/7. If they weren’t hauling fuel, they were being refilled for their next run. But constant use meant the trucks wore out and broke down early. Tires became hard to come by, and there were never enough to refit all the trucks. When the tires wore out, the trucks were then out of commission. While the war happened overseas, home heating oil and 80 octane gasoline was needed at home to keep workers on the job and run their homes. Short haul runs kept fuel delivery going stateside, and the Petroleum Administration for War defined this first as 25 miles, but expanded the definition to 200 miles. Tank trucks on short runs brought fuel to local gas stations as well as aviation fuel to airports.
Modern tanker trucks are highly specialized with considerable linings to protect the tank as well as prevent leaking and contamination. Tanks are now made from aluminum, for two reasons: one, it’s lighter and can carry more, and two, it doesn’t spark should the truck overturn.
Modern tanks can also be compartmentalized and carry multiple types of liquid cargo at once, (i.e., diesel, or industrial chemicals) or carry just one. Bobtail trucks, carrying less than 5,000 gallons, are generally used to transport fuel short distances instead of long-haul.
Most current fuel transport is used to deliver the refined product—gasoline—from the refineries to individual gas stations. But one of the biggest improvements in fuel transport is the increase in safety measures and training. Drivers who specialize in HazMat—hazardous materials—are required to take specialized training to ensure that both he/she and the cargo arrive safely. Additionally, tanks are designed just for the fuel they’ll be carrying, and address environmental concerns as well.
Call us at 1-866-445-5508, email us at [email protected], or use our online contact form. Centrally located with strategic fuel reserves throughout the US, Specialty Fuel Services can deliver emergency fuel and equipment anywhere. Add us to your disaster recovery and business continuity plan to guarantee fresh fuel anytime you need it. Don’t need a full load? Our bobtail trucks can deliver just what you need. We’re just a phone call away.