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How Much Does a Liquid Tanker Truck Hold?


Distribution is an essential element of every operation, including oil and gas production. Effectively managing fuel distribution ensures an oil and gas company identifies the best possible option for transporting processed hydrocarbon.

Oil and gas professionals recognize how critical fuel transport safety is to the industry, and the need for safe and reliable tanker trucks remains a top priority. Nonetheless, aside from safety, a tanker’s efficiency is also measured by its volume, which begs the question – “just how much does a tanker truck hold?”

Typically, tanker trucks have a capacity between 3,000 and 11,000 gallons based on the type. Hence, we examine the predominant tanker truck types and their specific capacity. When purchasing a quality tanker truck, look no further than Total Oilfield. We source and provide different types and capacities of tankers for adequate fuel transport safety.

What Are Tanker Trucks?

Tanker trucks are vehicles with massive tanks designed to carry liquid or gas on the road safely. They offer a safe and convenient way to move fluid, gases, and even powder in bulk between different locations. 

Tanker trucks typically feature a cylindrical shape that ensures these vehicles have no weak spots, offer better stability, allow for minimal sloshing, and foster easy extraction. Tanker trucks feature specific designs to suit a particular cargo and come in various sizes.

Factors That Determine How Much A Tanker Can Hold

The capacity, type, and size of a tanker truck are all interconnected factors. However, aside from these factors, there are other determinants that affect how much a tanker can hold.

Tanker Type

The oil and gas industry recognizes three significant types of tanker trucks – small, medium, and large tanker trucks.

  • Small Tanker Trucks

Small tanker trucks usually incorporate vehicles with a capacity under 3,000 gallons or about 11,000 liters. Aside from fuel distribution, small tanker trucks are also employed in moving light liquid cargo within a short distance and feature a pumping system to suit their specific requirements.

In fuel distribution, small tanker trucks serve as effective equipment in delivering liquified petroleum gases within a community. The smallest of this tanker type contains about 1,000 gallons (3,800 liters) of fuel under pressure.

  • Heavy-Duty Tanker Trucks

Heavy-duty tanker trucks employed in the oil and gas industry effectively transport gasoline, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and diesel from an oil production site to a filling station. Other cargoes transported with heavy-duty tankers include dairy products, alcohol, water, and industrial chemicals.

Large tankers typically carry about 11,000 gallons and can engage in long-distance distribution. Depending on the application, these tankers are designed from different materials, including steel, carbon, FRP, and aluminum. It’s also prevalent for heavy-duty tanker trucks to have separate compartments for transporting various products at the same time.


The design of a tanker truck can also determine its maximum capacity. There are three basic tanker designs – baffles, bulkhead, and smoothbores; all of which dictate how liquid freight moves when the truck is in motion.

  • Bulkheads

Tanker trucks with a bulkhead design have solid dividers that create different isolated storage compartments within the tanker. The bulkhead design effectively controls back-and-forth movement in the tank; however, it does not precisely address side movements which leaves the tanker at risk of falling over.

To ensure more stability, the front or back compartments of the tanker are overloaded, such that during loading and unloading activities, the cargo is distributed as evenly as possible during loading and unloading activities.

  • Baffles

Baffles are designed similarly to bulkheads and comprise angled dividers with holes that effectively slow down the cargo’s front-to-back flow. While baffles are effective in front-to-back flow control, they do not address side-to-side movements, just like bulkheads. As a result, they are also at risk of overturning on curves if they exceed a specific capacity of about 6,000 gallons.=

  • Smoothbores

For the smoothbore design, there is no compartmentalization in the tanker. Instead, it features one long, smooth exterior. There are several reasons tankers have a smoothbore design; however, when they are partially filled, there is a very high risk of slooshing, which could change the direction of the tanker.

For instance, an abrupt change in speed would result in the cargo slamming into the trailer walls and can cause the vehicle to skid. Regardless of this issue, tanker trucks with a smoothbore design typically allow for a higher capacity.


Aside from the tanker’s type and design, the maximum capacity it can contain also depends on the density of the liquid to be distributed. Density refers to the amount of space a certain material mass takes up. As a result, dense materials such as water would be heavier than gasoline with a lower density.

In the context of fuel distribution, the density of the fuel would determine how much can fit into the trailer.


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