Around the world, hazardous goods are transported every day. For Germany alone, the total volume transported in 2017 was reported to be around 310 million tons, of which road transport accounted for almost half, far ahead of rail and shipping. Accidents cannot be avoided, but dramatic consequences for both people and the environment can be largely minimized by observing precautionary and safety measures.

International regulations were created to prevent or mitigate environmental or personal harm, and their provisions were implemented by the Federal Republic of Germany in the “Gefahrgutverordnung Straße Eisenbahn Binnenschifffahrt”, or GGVSEB.

ADR – Regulations for minimizing risks in the transport of dangerous goods

In 1986, the EU adopted the European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods, a legal basis for the transport of dangerous goods that is binding for all member states. The regulation, also known by its French abbreviation “Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route”, ADR, has since been adapted to current circumstances every two years, most recently in March 2021.

What goods are considered dangerous?

Definiert wird Gefahrgut zusammengefasst als Stoffe oder Gegenstände, von denen im Zusammenhang mit Ihrem Transport Gefahren für die Allgemeinheit entstehen können.

Dangerous goods are defined collectively as substances or objects that may cause danger to the general public in connection with their transport.

Dangerous goods listed in the ADR include, but are not limited to.

    • Gases and gas mixtures
    • Inflammable liquids and solids
    • Toxic and infectious substances
    • Radioactive and corrosive substances
    • Substances hazardous to water and the environment
    • Explosives, munitions and fireworks

The inspection angle by the Hamburg water police.

What do truck drivers need to be aware of?

Anyone who wants to transport hazardous goods as a truck driver must observe numerous regulations. These include the design and equipment of the transporter as well as compliance with a quantity specification and load securing of a hazardous good, its packaging, classification, labeling and documentation. In addition, the driver needs transport documents, written instructions – and, last but not least, a valid driver’s license.

Required certifications

A simple truck driver’s license is not sufficient for the transport of dangerous goods. Rather, each driver must also successfully complete a special ADR training course, within which drivers from Germany must also demonstrate knowledge of the regulations of the GGVSEB. The ADR certificate is valid for five years from its date of issue and can be seamlessly extended for a further five years by taking a refresher course. For some dangerous goods, participation in separate advanced courses is also required. Depending on the advanced training level, up to six seminar days and costs of around 300 euros should be calculated.

The Basic Course exam sheet contains 30 questions and requires a minimum of 25 correct answers to pass. All tests are taken by the relevant Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Correctly equipped commercial vehicles

The trucks used are also subject to special construction requirements. Depending on the size and type of hazardous goods, specifically defined braking equipment or speed limiters must be integrated into the vehicles. Furthermore, there are individual requirements for electrical equipment and ventilation, connected devices to any trailers or for the prevention of fire hazards. The relevant certificate of approval for entering into service is issued by means of an examination carried out annually by independent inspectors.

Mandatory marking of goods carried

According to their flammability, toxicity and aggregate state, dangerous goods are divided into a total of nine main classes in the ADR, some with further subcategories. Among other things, a distinction is made between explosiveness or flammability, state of aggregation, toxicity and radioactivity.

If the load is assigned to more than one dangerous goods class, all relevant risks must be displayed on the wagon and on the containers.

ADR dangerous goods markings on a truck tank trailer
Hazardous goods labeling on a truck. Source: Meppen, Tanker trailer with ADR plate and slip, CC BY-SA 3.0

Regardless of the type and nature of the dangerous goods, their proper identification also referred to as labeling basically requires meaningful and clearly visible orange warning signs with specific combinations of numbers on the outer front and rear of the truck. Explosive and radioactive goods as well as transported containers are considered special cases and must be identified by additional placards, hazardous goods in a heated state on all four sides of the truck.

The regulations on the mandatory labeling of dangerous goods were introduced, among other things, as information for other road users. First and foremost, rescue forces at accident sites can thus adapt their measures to the circumstances. Further relevant information on the labeling of dangerous goods is provided in the overview of the VFR Verlag für Rechtsjournalismus GmbH on in German.

Packing and loading

Maximum risk minimization also includes proper dangerous goods packaging. Its requirements result from the material or capacity, among other things, and compliance is ensured by pressure and leak tests carried out in advance. In addition to the vehicle driver, the shipper, the contracting company and the consignee are also responsible for securing the load. Violations of the relevant regulations can be punished with fines.

The transport regulations for hazardous goods are applicable from the time when a maximum permissible total quantity is exceeded, which is calculated on the basis of a points catalog depending on the vehicle and the inventory. Until then, case-dependent exemption regulations can be used.

Equipment for the vehicle crew

Each crew member of the truck must be equipped with their own standard equipment including a high-visibility vest, protective gloves or goggles. In addition to the usual warning triangle and first aid material, it is also mandatory to carry a fire extinguisher and lighting equipment. In individual cases, respiratory protection, a shovel or a collection container are also part of the prescribed equipment.

Finally, the driver must carry written instructions for the possible occurrence of unforeseen incidents. The accident leaflets contain behavioral instructions for accident-related emergency situations and are provided by the carrier. If a member of the vehicle crew does not understand German, a version in the required foreign language must be enclosed.

Summary and further information

By complying with the above regulations, it is possible to minimize the consequences of accidents involving hazardous goods transporters. The binding set of regulations will also help to avoid drastic consequences of road accidents involving hazardous goods transporters to the greatest possible extent in the future.

Further information:
Overloading fines
The CMR consignment note
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