Safety Tips

5 Safety Tips for Drivers Approaching a Rolled Over Anhydrous Ammonia Trailer

Ryan Baber
5 minutes

What is Anhydrous Ammonia?

Anhydrous ammonia is a liquid fertilizer that is transported in pressurized vessels. These pressurized trailers are nicknamed “bottles” because of the round cylindrical shape of the trailers. Ammonia is typically used in the Midwest as a nitrogen fertilizer. You will see these trailers on highways year round but especially in the spring and fall which is known as the spray season. These bottles are manufactured to be safe and can withstand a large amount of pressure. However, in the event of an accident there is a chance that the pump on the bottom of the trailer could get ripped off causing some ammonia to leak. There have been cases that a trailer has been punctured which is far worse. A punctured trailer will release large amounts of ammonia forming a gas cloud that is very deadly. In the event that you find yourself in a situation where an unfamiliar tanker trailer has crashed or rolled over on the highway here is what you should do. First, you need to be able to identify an anhydrous ammonia vessel.

How to Identify an Anhydrous Ammonia Trailer

There are two key ways to identify an anhydrous ammonia trailer, either through a DOT placard or the actual trailer type.

DOT Placards

Anhydrous ammonia trailers will have placards located on the front, side, and rear portions of the trailer. The DOT Hazmat classification of anhydrous ammonia is 1005 with a green placard. All tanker trailers and any vessels that are certified to hold anhydrous ammonia will have this label on it.

MC331 Trailer

Anhydrous ammonia is transported in MC331 trailers. This is the “bottle” we were referring too. There are many different sizes but most trailers hold 10,500 gallons of product. These bottles are pressure rated to 275psi.

What to do If You Ever Come Across a Rolled Over Anhydrous Ammonia Trailer

1. Get upwind

When released to the atmosphere anhydrous ammonia becomes a gas. In large amounts, it will form a gas cloud. The safest place to be if ammonia is released out in the open is upwind of the leaking vessel. Being a gas, ammonia will go whichever way the wind is blowing.  

2. NEVER drive through a gas cloud

If you see a cloud of gas on the road coming from a trailer, NEVER drive through it. Pull off to the side of the road and find someplace upwind of the tanker trailer.  

3. Call 911

Call 911 immediately and inform them of a chemical danger. They will need to get ahold of a hazmat response team to control the dangerous gas.  

4. DO NOT try to assist in recovering the driver

If the driver is still in the truck DO NOT try to assist if you are seeing ammonia. You will not only be no help to the driver but will most likely injure or kill yourself in the process. The best thing to do is wait for a response team and stay on the phone with the operator.  

5. IF ammonia gets on your skin pour water on it

Anhydrous ammonia is attracted to water. If you happen to get any on your skin it will burn you. Immediately pour water onto the affected area to help stop the burning.  

Hopefully, you never encounter an overturned ammonia tanker trailer on the road. But now at least you will know the proper actions to take if you do. Make sure to stay alert and drive safe!

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