The Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) state that it is the shipper’s responsibility to provide the proper placards, yet it is the driver and the motor carrier who must ensure the shipment is in full compliance (Section 172.506).
In most instances, drivers and motor carriers follow these requirement as stated. However, if the shipper does not have the proper placards to accompany the shipment, but still wants to ship the freight, the driver is put in an awkward position. The driver must choose between forfeiting the shipment to another carrier who has a supply of extra placards on board or taking a chance by driving to the nearest truck stop to purchase the required placards. If the driver is involved in an accident or is stopped by authorities, without the required placards, he or she is likely to be fined.
A similar scenario, which occurs more often in the less-than-truckload industry (LTL), is where multiple shipments from multiple shippers are loaded and transported throughout the day on one trailer. Each time a hazardous material shipment is loaded (or unloaded), the driver must refer to Section 177.848 of the HMRs, which contains segregation requirements for highway transport that indicate which hazardous materials may be loaded, transported, or stored together. Depending on the weight and the mix of hazardous material shipments being transported, placards may change from one type to another (example: corrosive to dangerous).
The shipper may only have the required placard to match its own shipment. It then becomes the carrier’s responsibility to ensure the proper placards are affixed to the trailer.
How do you plan for this? Communication between the customer, the dispatcher, and the driver can prevent many mishaps of this nature. Planning ahead for any possible event is also recommended.