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ADR and hazardous goods

  • 30 July 2011
  • By Commercial Motor

ADR and hazardous goods

Some loads are potentially hazardous, including poisons and loads which are explosive, flammable or have corrosive properties. Strict rules apply on the transport of such loads by road (and, indeed, rail, water or air). The rules cover vehicles, packaging and markings on vehicles and containers.

Which laws apply?

UK legislation on the carriage of dangerous goods by road is extensive and complex and now aligned with the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) under Council Directive 94/55/EC, which harmonises the law across the EU. A so-called consolidated ‘restructured’ edition of ADR was published for 2005. The current edition of ADR is that for 2009, effective from 1 July 2009.

The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 ("CDG 2009"), SI 2009 No 1348, came into force on 1 July 2009. They replace the 2007 regulations.

The Regulations implement ADR 2009 (with a number of exceptions). The main duties are now covered by a single regulation, namely Regulation 5. Variations in GB which arise from derogations are now in a Department for Transport (DfT) Approved Document.

The 2009 text of the carriage of dangerous goods rules will introduce additional changes from 1 January 2011 to the carriage of dangerous goods packed in limited quantities, including new placarding requirements for transport units over 12 tonnes tare weight that are carrying limited quantity goods in excess of eight tonnes.


The ADR regulations (Accord Européen Relatif au Transport International des Marchandises Dangereuses par Route) are published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Volume 1 of the restructured edition contains the text of the actual ADR Agreement. Part 1 of volume 1 deals with the scope of the agreement, definitions and units of measure, training of persons involved in the carriage of dangerous goods etc. Part 2 deals with the general provisions concerning the classification of dangerous goods while Part 3 is taken up with the actual Dangerous Goods list in which all relevant substances are classified.

Volume 2 contains provisions in Part 4 dealing with packing and tank provisions. Part 5 deals with consignment procedures, Part 6 with construction and testing of packaging and IBCs, Part 7 deals with carriage by road, loading and handling of dangerous goods, Part 8 deals with vehicle crews and equipment and Part 9 with the construction and approval of dangerous goods carrying vehicles.

The latest ADR rules apply from 1 January 2009 and are available online. The 2009 edition is also available in hardcopy or CD-ROM format from UNECE.

Substance classifications

There are nine broad classifications of dangerous goods:

  • Class 1: Explosive substances and articles
  • Class 2: Gases
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids
  • Class 4.1: Flammable solids, self-reactive substances and solid desensitized explosives
  • Class 4.2: Substances liable to spontaneous combustion
  • Class 4.3: Substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases
  • Class 5.1: Oxidizing substances
  • Class 5.2: Organic peroxides
  • Class 6.1: Toxic substances
  • Class 6.2: Infectious substances
  • Class 7: Radioactive material
  • Class 8: Corrosive substances
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles

Hazchem codes

All vehicles carrying dangerous goods have to be clearly marked. Reflectorized orange markers have to be carried at the front and rear. Vehicles carrying class 1 (explosives) and class 7 (radioactive substances) have to display hazard diamonds on both sides. Tankers and tank containers must, in addition, show hazard class diamonds relevant to the primary and secondary hazard associated with the substance carried.

Vehicles on international journeys should carry a Hazard Identification Number (HIN), which is also called the Kemler code.

There is an extra requirement for GB-registered vehicles on domestic journeys. These vehicles must be marked with Emergency Action Codes (sometimes called Hazchem codes) which identify the substance, and include a telephone number for advice in the event of an emergency. See Hazchem consignment rules.

It is an offence to remove panels or signs from a vehicle or to falsify information on any panel or sign, or to display information when the vehicle is not carrying dangerous goods.

Transport Emergency Cards and Vehicle equipment

ADR 2009 introduced significant changes in the rules on the issue of Transport Emergency Cards (Tremcards). Drivers must carry a Tremcard, which is issued by the carrier not the consignor and gives information about the potential dangers of the substance and what action should be taken in the language of any country the vehicle will pass through; a certificate of approval for the vehicle carrying dangerous substances and explosives; and a Vocational Training Certificate (VTC).

ADR 2009 introduced a big change to the instructions in writing, both in terms of the content and who is responsible for supplying them.

Key changes can be summarised as:

  • From 1 July 2009 the new instructions in writing must be carried when hazardous goods are transported by road
  • There is now one set of instructions to cover all dangerous goods
  • The complete instructions in writing text is available to download online free of charge and is also included in the ADR 2009 text
  • The driver / haulier is now responsible for providing the instructions in writing
  • The instructions are now only required in a language that the vehicle crew can understand

Operators are required to keep a record of journey transport documentation for at least three months.

Vehicles must be equipped with at least one chock, two warning signs (reflective cones, triangles or self-powered flashing amber lights). Drivers and crew must be provided with safety vests compliant with EN471 and a pocket lamp, and any equipment and clothing needed to deal with spillages according to the information in the Tremcard. For carriage of toxic gases, a respiratory device must be supplied.


Training is mandatory for drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods. The DfT website is a good source of information, especially the page on training and professional roles in dangerous goods transport.

Drivers must hold a VTC issued by the DfT, stating that they have attended appropriate training courses and passed an examination. Refresher courses are obligatory. Drivers must produce their VTC to the police or any goods vehicle examiner.

Until 1 January 2007 drivers of dangerous goods vehicles below 3,500kg were exempt from carrying a VTC. ADR 2005 abolished the concession and the two-year transitional period has expired. Companies have been required to appoint Dangerous Goods Safety Advisors (DGSAs) since 2004.

DGSAs need to have obtained a vocational training certificate (VTC), after undergoing training and successfully completing a written examination approved by the competent authority of a member state. VTCs are mutually recognised in all EU member states and in any non-EU states which are signatories to RID or ADR.

The DfT page on Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers has more information on requirements, training and VTC requirements.


The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcement and compliance, and for the classification of explosives for transport purposes.

The police and the VOSA traffic examiners are also empowered to enforce certain parts of the regulations, targeted at ensuring compliance by carriers. They can demand production of the drivers’ documents that are required to be carried and VOSA inspectors are authorised to serve prohibition notices. Offenders can expect to be dealt with severely by the courts on conviction.

Want to know more?

The DfT's website has comprehensive advice on the transport of dangerous goods and the legal requirements. See the DfT Dangerous Goods home page.

Competent Authority provisions under the Carriage Regulations have details of authorisations, exemptions, multilateral agreements and notices allowing deviations from ADR/RID requirements.

If you have got a specific query, there are 12 guidance notes which might answer your question. They offer advice on fuel containers, packaging, fire extinguisher requirements, load limits, limited quantities exemptions, ammunition and explosives, retail packaging, warning signs, oxygen cylinder rules, international bulk container requirements, prevention of leaks in machinery containing dangerous goods, and advice on transporting samples that might contain avian influenza (bird flu) virus.

Updated by Lucy Wood & Anton Balkitis
Freephone: 0800 046 3066