Driving home….


End of the week, and it had been a rainy day. As usual, I hadn’t parked my car under cover .I was glad I don’t drive an open top car as I would have undoubtedly left the roof down all day. Luckily the rain had stopped by this time……

The earlier rain, and the fact that it was peak hour meant the traffic was slow-moving . I glanced to my right and saw a truck roll past. A huge , long, double-axle truck.

We are familiar with what theoretically happens with our DG cargo packed inside shipping containers. Packed, trucked, booked, documented, loaded, delivered. For most people, this is handled over the phone and electronically. Most of the actual transport of these sea cargoes is handled by specialists; piloting the vessels and working in the terminal . Away from our eyes, behind gated compounds and on the open sea.

But let’s go back a few steps. Trucking. Where we can see DG being transported in an everyday situation. Depending on whether the dangerous goods are either packed in bulk, packed in dunnage ( bracing ) on the back of the track or are individually packed and containerised, the required placard would either be on the truck itself ( i.e. a tanker ) or on a shipping container loaded on the truck.

The instances where we would see bulk DG whizzing past in a tanker are often where a flammable liquid is involved; petrol tankers transporting fuel from the refineries to the service stations are a common sight.

For cargoes packed in dunnage ( i.e., gas cylinders secured to the bed of the truck ) , these would most likely be pressurised retail goods such as small gas tanks for a backyard barbecue, or larger LPG ( liquefied petroleum gas ) tanks  for trade or manufacturing operations. Oxygen tanks, either for scuba diving or medical facilities, are another example of cargoes packed in dunnage when trucked.

Trucks carrying DG in shipping containers are usually on their way to or from the wharf. Sometimes in consolidated shipments, the container is filled in stages at different packing establishments operated by different exporters; this could be a situation where the DG is packed in a container and transported by road, but is not yet on its way to the wharf.

The relevant legislation that each of the above scenarios must adhere to varies; for a load being transported within a country and not ultimately being transported internationally by air or sea – then that countries national legislation would apply. The legislation would  likely be interpreted and enforced at a state level.

For any shipment being exported via air or sea and involving a prior road or rail leg, compliance with both IMDG and the equivalent national code is necessary . In broad terms IMDG is usually the more stringent code; so a DGD fulfilling the requirements of the IMDG code will also fulfil the requirements of the national code. But there are also practical concerns such as allowable routes / times for certain UN numbers to be moved, weight thresholds for certain roads, right down to requirements such as wearing a high visibility vest and carrying a first aid kit when transporting via road.

Additionally, certain UN numbers are considered to be High Consequence Dangerous Goods and are subject to further strict controls when transported . A common HCDG is Ammonium Nitrate . Most shipping lines will not carry Ammonium Nitrate in its emulsified ( liquid ) form due to its volatility; but there are other security concerns with Ammonium Nitrate even when it is carried in its more chemically stable solid form. This is due to the fact that it is an effective precursor to powerful explosives and hence is an attractive target for terrorist activities.

These security restrictions are often centred around dwell time in terminals and also usually require a permit / pre-advice to the authorities in charge of the road network ( usually the department of transport, who usually also regulate and enforce national level dangerous goods legislation as a whole ).

So the trucks we see driving past carrying DG are regulated nationally ( sometimes internationally ) , may require special permission on a “trip” basis and often the driver has to observe certain conditions and routes ( i.e., staying away from residential streets and roads )

The truck slowly pulling past me was carrying a load of Chlorine, UN 1748. Chlorine in its dry, powdered form is usually used as a cleaning agent for pools. I guessed that it was not being exported, as it is usually not practical to export UN 1748 due to the shipping line requirements ( oxidising agents require special stowage ). Most likely it was being driven to a pool shop for sale.

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