Whether it’s done by road, by air, by rail, or by sea, the transport of dangerous goods is subject to national and international regulations aimed at preventing risks to people, goods, and the environment. Here are five basic rules for transporting dangerous goods.

1. Dangerous Goods Are Classified

Any material likely to cause serious consequences for people, goods, or the environment due to its chemical or physical properties or the nature of the reactions that it may cause is considered dangerous. Dangerous goods are sorted into 9 categories by the UN: explosive substances, gases, flammable liquids, flammable and self-reactive or hydro-reactive solids or those prone to spontaneous combustion, oxidizing substances or organic peroxides, toxic or infectious substances, radioactive substances, corrosive substances, and environmentally hazardous substances and items. To these substances are added lithium batteries, dry ice, GMO plants and animals, and infectious (or non-infectious) biological substances such as vaccines, viruses, toxins, or waste.

2. Danger Indications Are Affixed

Danger indications must be affixed to the containers used to transport dangerous goods. These include:

  • Labels
  • Sheets
  • Markings and symbols.

The sender is therefore required to affix:

  • A label to small containers
  • Sheets and – if applicable – the UN number to large containers

The carrier, for their part, has the responsibility:

  • To ensure that the labels remain in place throughout the trip
  • To affix the sheets provided by the sender to the container or vehicle.

3. Dangerous Goods are Transported in Suitable Packaging

Unless they are exempted from this, dangerous goods must be shipped in standardized containers in order to prevent any possibility of rejection. These containers bear an indication showing that they were manufactured in compliance with the safety standards to which they are subject. Some of these containers must be regularly inspected, tested, and marked. There are two main categories of containers:

  • Small containers with a maximum capacity of 450 litres. These include cylinders, jerry cans, buckets, barrels, kegs, and bottles
  • Large containers over 450 litres. These include road tanks, portable tanks, and large containers for bulk goods. The latter have a capacity of less than 3,000 litres and must be inspected every five years.

4. Specific Documentation Accompanies the Goods

The sender is obligated to prepare a written or printed shipping document and to deliver it to the carrier before authorizing them to take possession of the dangerous goods in order to transport them. The carrier is required to keep it throughout the transport. The following items must appear on this document:

  • The name and address of the sender
  • The date of preparation or delivery of the document
  • The description of each dangerous good and their classifications according to the different possible categories
  • The amount of goods being transported
  • The number of containers
  • The contact information for a contact other than the sender, reachable at any time and capable of providing technical information
  • The possible changes concerning the amount or the number of containers
  • A certificate from the sender
  • Any additional information.

5. Safety and Security Measures Are Applied

When it comes to dangerous goods, the driver must take several precautions, including:

  • Prior to departure: verify that they have all the shipping documents and that the danger indications appear on all the containers, that the load is secure, that the standards for loads and dimensions have been followed, and that the vehicle is in good condition prior to departure
  • During transport: the driver must drive carefully, follow speed limits, braking distances, and driving times, and regularly check that the load is secure and that the tires are in good condition.

The transportation of dangerous goods must meet certain standards and be subject to special precautions. Following these rules lets you reduce the risks to which people, goods, and the environment are exposed.