Driving dangerous goods and special loads
International regulations and required documentation for hauliers transporting dangerous or hazardous goods by road or by vehicles on ships.
When dangerous goods are transported by road, an accident could cause considerable harm to people and the environment. Spillage of the goods could lead to fires, explosions and chemical poisoning or burning.
As a haulier you need to be aware of the laws on transporting dangerous goods by road, and the procedures involved in classifying such goods.
This guide gives an overview of these rules. It also covers how to make sure that the vehicles in which these goods are carried, and their operators, are correctly certified in accordance with international regulations.
The European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road
Moving dangerous goods by road is governed by international regulations and is strictly policed. Most European countries are signed up to the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). Each country that complies with ADR implements specific safety measures through its own national legislation.
The purpose of ADR is to ensure that dangerous goods (including clinical and other dangerous waste) being carried by road can cross international borders freely, as long as goods, vehicles and drivers comply with its provisions. ADR has been in force since 1968 and is administered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It’s updated every 2 years to take account of technological advances.
ADR sets out the requirements for classifying, packaging, labelling and certifying dangerous goods. These requirements are set out in Annex A to ADR.
Vehicles carrying dangerous goods must comply with the provisions of Annex B to ADR, which includes vehicle and tank specifications and other operational requirements.
The drivers of all vehicles (including those with a gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes or less) carrying dangerous goods must have an ADR training certificate. There are exemptions for drivers carrying small loads below the threshold limits, drivers carrying dangerous goods packed in limited quantities, and drivers carrying dangerous goods packed in excepted quantities.
You are required to register as a waste carrier in order to carry certain types of dangerous waste.
If you transport loads of dangerous goods below certain volume or weight thresholds, many parts of ADR may not apply, or only apply in a modified form. General exemptions to ADR are listed in Chapter 1.1.3. Part 3 of Annex A to ADR includes the dangerous goods list, special provisions and exemptions related to dangerous goods packed in limited quantities.
In which countries does ADR apply?
Documentation required in order to carry dangerous goods
When transporting dangerous goods internationally under the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR), you must ensure your consignments are always accompanied by a transport document. This sets out detailed information on the load being carried, including full classification of the substance(s) carried and how it’s packaged. You must present the required information in a certain order and follow certain rules on language.
In addition to documents required under other regulations, under ADR you must ensure that the following documents are carried on the transport unit:
- transport document(s) containing prescribed information for each dangerous substance, material or article being carried
- emergency instructions in writing
- means of identification, including a photograph for each member of the vehicle crew
For full documentation instructions, you can download ADR 2017 from the UNECE website.
In addition, if any part of your journey involves sea transport of the vehicle, see this information on moving goods by sea.
Emergency instructions in writing
The consignor of a vehicle carrying dangerous goods must provide the driver with details of the hazards associated with their dangerous goods loads and instructions on emergency action to take if an accident occurs:
- before a journey commences, the driver/haulier must provide the instructions in writing (rather than the consignor)
- the instructions must be in a language(s) that every member of the vehicle’s driver/crew understand
- one set of instructions - based on a 4 page model - covers all dangerous goods rather than specific products
Other agreements and legislation which may apply to dangerous loads
Some exceptions or ‘derogations’ from the provisions of ADR are allowed under certain multilateral agreements. These allow goods to be transported - usually for a fixed period - between or through any of the countries that have signed up to the multilateral agreement. If you are carrying dangerous goods under such an agreement, you must carry a copy of that agreement. You can check whether a multilateral agreement applies to your load and route on the UNECE website.
You should also check whether other legislation beyond the ADR applies to the dangerous goods you carry - for example, load restrictions on the carriage of petrol.
The dangerous goods vehicle approval certificate
If you intend to carry explosives or dangerous goods in tanks by road to or through countries which apply the European Agreement concerning the ADR, you may need to obtain a certificate under Annex B of ADR. You can view requirements of ADR 2017 on construction and approval of vehicles on the UNECE website.
Fixed-tank vehicles, tank-battery vehicles and other vehicles carrying explosives must undergo technical inspection and a certification procedure in their country of registration to make sure that they conform with ADR requirements and to the standard safety regulations in force, for example covering brakes, lighting and steering.
In the UK, vehicles can be inspected at certain Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) Goods Vehicle Testing Stations. DVSA issues a certificate of approval, valid for one year, for vehicles, which pass this inspection. Vehicle operators must pay a fee for the inspection.
For more information, see the guide on ADR and other tests for dangerous or hazardous goods vehicles.
Driver training certificates required under ADR
Under the European Agreement on ADR, drivers of vehicles with tanks and certain tank components, and some drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods in packages, must hold a special vocational certificate of training, sometimes referred to informally as an ‘ADR Certificate’.
All drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods must attend an approved basic training course. These courses equip drivers with information and tools so that they:
- are aware of the hazards in the carriage of dangerous goods
- can take steps to reduce the likelihood of an incident taking place
- can take all necessary measures for their own safety and that of the public and the environment to limit the effects of any incident that does occur
- have individual practical experience of the actions they will need to take
For more details on the different crew training requirements see chapter 8.2 of ADR on the UNECE website.
The ADR test required to certify vehicles used to transport dangerous goods
Vehicles used to transport dangerous or hazardous goods must undergo annual checks to certify that they are roadworthy.
Certain dangerous goods vehicles must have an extra test and certificate over and above the normal heavy goods vehicle roadworthiness test. This is known informally as an ‘ADR test’. It ensures that vehicles comply with Part 9 of the European Agreement concerning the ADR. Vehicle requirements vary according to the nature of the goods being carried.
How to book your annual ADR Dangerous Goods Vehicle Test
Dangerous goods vehicle tests can be done at all Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) test stations. An ADR vehicle test can be carried out at the same time as the annual test, and an extra fee is payable for this. You can download DVSA’s form ADR III to apply for an ADR test. You must complete a VTG 15 form - Certificate for Carriage of Dangerous Goods for any vehicle you are submitting for ADRIII certification testing. You can download DVSA’s form VTG15 to certify that your vehicle is carrying dangerous goods.
Requirements for the carriage of dangerous goods on vehicles at sea
The carriage of dangerous goods in vehicles on ships is governed in UK law by the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods and Marine Pollutants) Regulations 1997. These regulations enact the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMDG Code covers the carriage of goods, which have been classified as dangerous if transported by sea, or are a marine pollutant.
The ‘Blue Book’ referred to in previous guidance no longer exists. It has been replaced by Merchant Shipping Notices (MSNs), which are issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). MSNs cover mandatory information that must be complied with under UK legislation. These MSNs relate to legal requirements and contain the technical detail of such regulations.
You can download a drivers’ checklist.
Guidelines for packing dangerous cargo in freight containers
The IMO publishes guidelines for packing cargo in freight containers or vehicles, as a supplement to the IMDG Code. You can read about the code together with its supplements on the IMO website.
MCA publishes help and advice on the carriage of dangerous goods in ships.
Appointing a Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser
Companies engaged in carrying, packing, filling, loading and/or unloading of dangerous goods by road, rail or inland waterways may have to appoint a Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) to comply with the European Agreement on ADR
The cases in which this requirement applies are set out in Chapter 1.8.3 of ADR, which also explains the role of the DGSA.
In the UK, the ADR requirements for appointing a DGSA are enforced under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Inspection of tanks used to carry dangerous goods by road
Before an ADR vehicle inspection is carried out, fixed tanks, demountable tanks, vehicles carrying batteries of receptacles and tank containers must be examined and tested by an inspection body approved by the Department for Transport (DfT). To get the appropriate certificates, your tank equipment will have to meet certain design, construction and equipment standards.
You can also download DVSA’s form ADR III to apply for an ADR test.
Vehicle Certification Agency Dangerous Goods Office
For advice on moving or packaging dangerous goods.
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
0300 123 9000
Published: 10 September 2012
Updated: 25 January 2017
- Updated links to latest ADR and RID regulations.
- 2013 rules on European agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods (ADR) updated.
- Removed the section on perishable foodstuffs which doesn't fit in this guide. Creating separate guide for perishable food.
- First published.