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Trailer Tanker Incompatibilities & Safety

Trailer Tanker Incompatibilities & Safety

In addition to the many hazards of the road, drivers of hazardous waste and other materials must be aware of the incompatibilities and hazards associated with these materials. Keep reading to learn more about these hazards and the trailer tankers designed to handle them, and be sure to reach out to HTS Environmental Services for professional in-plant and field services, including hazardous waste transportation, tank decontamination, and more.

Transporting hazardous waste is no trivial matter. Every time a tanker trailer’s wheels hit the municipal roadways, the possibility of a dangerous chemical release is present.

Besides the inherent risks of collisions or overturns involved with operating a vehicle, transporters of hazardous materials must also be mindful of the chemical dangers present. Anyone who has worked with hazardous materials knows they can react in inexplicable and unpredictable ways, a dangerous situation which is exponentially increased by the scale at which hazardous wastes are often hauled.

This deadly combination of public presence and dangerous goods is why the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has adopted such stringent specifications for the construction of highway transportation containers. These specifications are designed to present the optimal environmental conditions for the storage and transportation of a variety of materials, including solids, liquids, and gases.

Since a vast majority of bulk hazardous materials are liquids, we thought it best to take a look at some of the most common tanker trailers used in the hazardous waste transportation industry. Correct understanding of the chemical compatibilities of different tankers is foundational for providing the safest possible service.

While we do our best to provide you with the best information possible, the following blog post is meant to be just that, a blog post, and should not be considered a comprehensive guide for determining chemical tank compatibility.

The Trinity League

Transporters in the hazardous waste industry commonly make use of three main DOT-specific tanker trailers: 406, 407, and 412. Each of these numbers indicates the DOT specifications that tanker trailer was built to which in turn indicates the (generally) compatible classes of chemicals. Let’s start by taking a look at the DOT-406 tanker.


The DOT-406 tanker, also called the “non-(low)pressure bulk liquid cargo tank” if you’re the kind of person who hates parties, is the most basic of the liquid haulers. They can only withstand a wee bit of pressure (4 psi), are made of aluminum, and can only hold the “friendliest” of wastes.

Common Uses: They are commonly used to transport veritably inert materials, such as milk or water, or flammable but unreactive wastes such as those derived from petroleum products

Chemical Incompatibilities: Aluminum 406 tanks are quite fragile when compared with their stainless steel (S.S.) counterparts. Because aluminum is more reactive than S.S. (we’ll explain why later), it is more susceptible to damage and corrosion from a variety of common chemicals. Aluminum tanks cannot hold household corrosives like vinegar (acetic acid/water mixture) or caustics like calcium carbonate solutions (CaCl2, the main ingredient in Tums®). They are also incompatible with a host of other chemicals, including a variety of chlorides, bromides, sulfates, nitrates, bicarbonates, and hydroxides, as well as a handful of common organics


The DOT-407 or “low-pressure bulk liquid cargo tank,” is the Goldilocks of chemical tankers. Composed primarily of stainless steel and able to hold a wide variety of chemicals, the 407 is the workhorse of the hazardous waste transportation industry. Stainless steel, which contains chromium and molybdenum in addition to iron and carbon, is more resistant to chemical damage due to an oxidized, or “passivated” layer on the surface of the tank. They may also possess some sort of interior coating or lining.

Common Uses: Mild acidic and basic compounds, nitric acid, various hydroxides, combustible liquids, organics, and inert wastes

Chemical Incompatibilities:  While S.S. 407 tanks are pretty darn tough, they do have a few Achilles heels’. Some of the notable incompatibilities are common chemicals including sulfuric, hydrofluoric, and hydrochloric acids, as well as most, if not all, chlorides.


The DOT-412 “Corrosives Cargo” tanker is the workhorse of the hazardous waste transportation fleet. Some are composed of lined or coated stainless steel, others are composed of fiber-reinforced polymers, but either way, they’re made to move the nasty stuff.

Common Uses: Hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, and ferric chlorides

Chemical Incompatibilities: This one is up to the manufacturer. Some tankers may be made specifically for certain hazardous wastes, while others may be more generalized. Check with the manufacturer of your particular model if you have doubts about the compatibility of a certain chemical with your tank.

Issues With Incompatabilities

Properly storing wastes in compatible trailers is essential for both the wellbeing of the public as well as the maintaining of your transportation fleet. Sure, sometimes, damage caused by incompatibilities happens quick, fast, and in a hurry. However, the truth is that a vast majority of damage occurs slowly, over long periods, and is only noted during the tanker’s catastrophic failure.

For example, imagine an S.S. DOT-407 tanker that has been used to transport a 20% acetic acid solution for the past 5 years, without its lining and passivation layer having been inspected. While the tanker is able to transport acetic acid at that low of a concentration, it is also susceptible to corrosion over extended periods of use. Over time, the acetic acid etches away at the steel until one day, during a routine transport, one of the welds on the tank fractures under the weight of the cargo, releasing the acetic acid onto the roadway and into the adjacent watershed.

While this may have been a hypothetical, there are countless real-life examples of accidental release originating from incompatibility. Being knowledgeable about the many classes of chemicals and the vessels that can contain them is vital for compliant and incident-free hazardous waste transportation. Make sure to inform yourself about all the requirements, stipulations, and recommendations before loading up your shiny new tanker with a questionable waste stream!

If you have any questions, whether they’re about tank compatibilities or hazardous waste transportation in general, feel free to contact us online or call us at (562) 906-2633. Our Santa Fe Springs office serves businesses in LA County, Orange County, and throughout Southern California. We can help you reduce your waste, save money and meet regulatory requirements so you can focus on your vital operations.