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ADR and Dangerous Loads – 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Fall Foul of the Rules


What is ADR?

ADR (Accord Dangereux Routier) is the European Agreement which sets out the rules governing the movement by road of dangerous goods throughout the EU. They are very strict and exist to protect the public, drivers and the environment from the harmful effect of dangerous substances. It’s essential that all ADR hauliers and drivers are fully aware of the rules on the carriage of dangerous goods. The consequences of getting it wrong can include criminal prosecution and a hearing before the Traffic Commissioner.


ADR lists all substances that are hazardous for conveyance by road. It dictates proper shipping names and allocates substance identification numbers (UN Number). There is a system of hazard classification along with packaging requirements and requirements for tank construction. If a substance is not on the list it cannot be moved.


The full regulations are detailed and complex, and stretch to more than 1000 pages. The regulations apply to any quantity and apply from the time of loading until totally clean and purged. The rules therefore apply to “nominally empty tanks” and tippers.


Here we look at 5 of the more common ways ADR operators fall foul of the rules:


1) Carrying the Wrong Documents

Drivers of ADR loads must carry with them, and have available for inspection by the enforcement authorities certain essential documents relating to their load. These documents include:


  • A transport document identifying: The UN Number and proper shipping name; The UN Hazard Class and description of any packages; the total quantity of goods in each transport category; the names and addresses of consignor and consignee and the appropriate tunnel code.
  • Instructions to the driver in writing. These should set out the steps to be taken in the event of an accident. These must be provided in a language that can be understood by the driver.

It is an offence to provide false or misleading information to drivers about the type of dangerous goods being carried.


2) Carrying the Wrong Equipment on Board

The law requires ADR operators to make sure that certain equipment is carried in vehicles transporting dangerous goods. This equipment includes such items as:


  • Fire extinguishers
  • Wheel chocks
  • Eye cleaning fluid
  • High Visibility clothing
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Self standing warning signs
  • Portable lighting apparatus
  • Shovel, drain seal and a collecting container made of plastic
  • Respirators for any toxic gas and certain other materials

If any of this equipment is missing enforcement action can be taken. At the roadside this can include receiving a Penalty Notice or a written warning, and can be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.


3) Failing to Train Your Staff

The ADR legislation requires operators to make sure their staff receive appropriate training on the handling and transportation of dangerous goods. Crucially, this is not just limited to drivers but includes warehouse staff, loaders, unloaders etc. This is separate to the more specialised training that ADR drivers must undergo to obtain an ADR certificate, allowing them to driver ADR loads.


4) Having an Ineffective Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor

Organisations involved in the transport of dangerous goods are required to appoint a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (“DGSA”) to monitor and oversee compliance with the laws governing the transportation of dangerous goods. The responsibilities of a DGSA are extensive, and include:


  • Checking the suitability of any subcontractors to carry dangerous goods
  • Ensuring safe loading and unloading procedures
  • Ensuring that staff undergo appropriate training in the carriage of dangerous goods

A DGSA should never be a safety advisor in name only, but must play an active role in the monitoring and management of safe ADR systems.


5) Carrying the Wrong ADR Markings on your Vehicles

Ensuring correct vehicle markings are an essential part of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods regime. For journeys within the UK, vehicles within the scope of the ADR rules must display an orange plate along with additional markings depending on the type of vehicle and the load carried. These markings must be completely unobstructed.


It is an offence to display ADR plates when the container, tank or vehicle is not carrying dangerous goods, or to display information likely to confuse the emergency services. It is also an offence to falsify information on the warning plate.


This means that if you forget to remove a warning plate from your vehicle after unloading dangerous goods, you are committing an offence!


Getting Help When it all Goes Wrong

The ADR regime is enforced by three agencies:


  • the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
  • the Police
  • the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA – formerly VOSA)

Roadside stops are usually left to the police and DVSA, whereas inspection of premises is more often the domain of the HSE.


Operators who fall foul of the ADR rules can not only face criminal prosecution at a Magistrates or before the Crown Court, but can also expect to be called to Public Inquiry before the Traffic Commissioner. One of the Traffic Commissioner’s seven deadly sins (the seven most serious operator licence infringements which will almost always lead to serious regulatory action) is:


“Transporting dangerous goods that are prohibited for transport or transporting such goods in a prohibited or non-approved means of containment or without identifying them on the vehicle as dangerous goods, thus endangering lives or the environment to such extent that it leads to a decision to immobilise the vehicle.”


If you have breached the rules on ADR and dangerous goods, it is essential that you seek the advice of a specialist transport lawyer as soon as possible. At Smith Bowyer Clarke Road Transport Lawyers we offer free initial consultations and fixed fees. Our transport solicitors and barristers regularly represent operators, drivers and transport managers before the criminal courts and the Traffic Commissioner up and down the country. Speak to one of our team today.

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