[box type="shadow"]The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates the use of hazardous materials placards–diamond-shaped labels attached to shipping containers, trucks and train cars–to identify the cargo. Placard regulations have come a long way from the days when people traversed city sidewalks wearing message-bearing placards, covering front and back.[/box]
Transporting certain goods across long distances presents potential safety hazards, thus appropriately labeling, or placarding, the product’s shipping containers serves as a protection. The U.S. federal government regulates such placarding guidelines, which can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These regulations include prohibitive and permissive placarding. Permissive placarding includes signage designating a hazardous substance in transport, while prohibited placarding disallows signage which, by its color or shape, could be confused with a federally-designated placard.
The CFR also offers general guidelines for how a container should be placarded before leaving for transport. Accordingly, each freight container, unit load device, transport vehicle or rail car containing any amount of hazardous material must have a placard on each side and end. Examples of specific placard designations include Explosives, Poison Gas, Dangerous When Wet, Organic Peroxide, Poison Inhalation Hazard and Radioactive.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration Office of Hazardous Materials Safety website notes that hazardous materials fall into one of nine categories, based on the type of danger they present. The legal responsibility for providing placards that properly identify hazardous materials lies with the producer or packager of the materials. The USDOT requires producers and packagers to provide at least four labels on each shipping container, to cover both ends and both sides of the container.
The USDOT holds the shipper responsible for making certain that the placards remain in place during shipment. The four placards stay in place from the time the shipment leaves its point of origin until the crew unloads it at its destination. The regulations require immediate removal of placards from unloaded cargo, making it illegal to transport an empty container that displays placards.[/box]