How is the transport of dangerous goods different from the transport of neutral goods?

Przewóz towarów niebezpiecznych

The transport of dangerous goods on public roads is a difficult specialisation in the already difficult industry of commercial transport of goods. Such transport is regulated by a number of legal acts that owners, forwarders and finally drivers of companies  that deal only with neutral cargo do not have to worry about.

The above-mentioned legal acts include, above all, the International ADR Agreement in force throughout Europe (and not only) and acts of local law, which in Poland mean, among others, the Act on the Transport of Dangerous Goods or the Act on Weapons and Ammunition. Each of these documents brings its own regulations, and in international transport, you should always check whether the transit country has introduced its restrictions that will apply to a vehicle on its territory - summarising the above: the topic got complicated before a driver managed to turn the car key, but let's start with a proper sequence.

Dangerous goods

As the name suggests, these are the ones that for some reason threaten human life or health, the natural environment or the general order or material goods. The United Nations created a closed TN directory giving each a four-digit number, the so-called "UN number", dividing them into classes depending on the hazard or the dominant hazard. For example, fireworks are placed in class 1 as an explosive, gasoline in class 3 as a flammable liquid and batteries and accumulators in class 9 as "other dangerous goods and articles".

The ADR agreement (and not only, but we will come back to it later) introduced the requirements for TN transport in such a way as to limit the effects of a possible release of substances, for example during a collision of vehicles, and above all, to prevent such events at all. The general regulations for all classes are primarily the complete equipment of vehicles and the training of the crews, as well as other people involved in transport, such as forwarders, warehousemen or operation of tank filling and emptying equipment, so to the point.

Driver training is the first and most important line of defense against undesirable events, because a driver, on behalf of his/her employer, accepts the goods for transport and is responsible for them during the journey. Accepting, for example, a leaky IBC (Intermediate bulk containers) with a strong acid or a highly flammable liquid on a vehicle is a road to a tragedy, and after all, apart from the driver, there are also bystanders who are unaware of a vehicle load. It is therefore imperative that each driver completes a special course and passes an exam before he or she can be allowed to transport dangerous goods. These trainings are divided into basic and specialised ones, for example, for tankers or explosives - all drivers in our company, of course, have a full set of qualifications.

Another requirement mentioned earlier is that vehicles should be equipped with equipment to protect the crew (such as safety glasses or eyewash) and to actively prevent the release of a dangerous substance into the environment (for example, guards applied to drains). Some TN classes require additional items, such as an escape mask for gases or a non-sparking torch (the so-called "EX torch") for explosives. Talking to ITD employees, we have had the opportunity to hear about savings, often even pennies, such as replacing eyewash with a bottle of water - when asked if a bottle of water is as good as a special liquid in a bottle with an applicator, drivers usually throw up one's hands. However, we decided not to save on safety and provide drivers with complete and best quality equipment.

The third element that is absolutely required for the transport of TN is an appointed adviser for the safety of the transport of dangerous goods, often called DGSA. This person, having the powers granted by the Transport Technical Supervision (in the case of Poland), supports all employees on an ongoing basis in terms of compliance with regulations, training new company employees and reacting to all discrepancies. DGSA is often omitted in Polish realities as an unnecessary cost, but who is to confirm whether a given transport can be performed with a particular car or whether specific goods have been properly prepared for transport? At Adecon, the designated DGSA has TDT licences in the field of road transport, as well as IATA DGR category 6 aviation licences and training in the maritime IMDG code. As it was mentioned above, we do not save money on security as well as knowledge.

By meeting the above-mentioned conditions, we are almost ready to go, but it is still only part of the requirements - there are also technical specifications of vehicles for certain TN groups, regulations of other modes of transport that often mix with each other, or the the above-mentioned regulations of national law not included in ADR. All these issues will be the subject of our subsequent articles that will appear periodically supplementing this introduction.