This issue causes problems out of proportion to the risk it presents. The parts of ADR that are especially relevant are 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206.6 (documentation). The specific exemption in 220.127.116.11 is qualified by the condition "if adequate measures have been taken to nullify any hazard" and is not available for classes 1 and 7.
Empty uncleaned packaging may be regarded as coming in two "categories"
In the first case, the goods are still dangerous goods, but are assigned to Transport Category (TC) 4 and any load is thus a "small load" (except for the unusual situation where Transport Category 0 goods are involved).
In the second case, the packaging will have to be cleaned or treated in some way to nullify all hazards. If that is achieved then the goods to be transported are no longer dangerous and ADR (and hence the regulations) will not apply. For many substances (such as fuels and solvents) this will not be easy and for that reason will often not be done. This distinction may be important. For example, receptacles with remains of flammable solvents will still present a hazard, but, subject to having been "emptied", are assigned to TC4.
In practice, returned packaging (such as IBCs and drums) is often collected as part of a delivery round and the driver will be appropriately trained and the vehicle marked and equipped in the ordinary way. There are some special cases, which will not be seen very often, which are mentioned in the note below
Two common activities need highlighting
Class 2 (compressed and liquefied gases). In ordinary service these items are not emptied in any conventional way and it would be difficult (and possibly dangerous without specialist equipment) to determine residual contents. The main operators in this field treat all cylinders as full and do not seek to utilise the small load exemptions. Enforcement officers should also take this view (that is, that the cylinders cannot be regarded as TC4). Note that in many cases (especially carriage by users such as mobile mechanics, welders etc) the small load exemptions will apply and care needs to be taken to recognise how the load is calculated. See the note below re aerosols.
Any concerns should be itemised on the document given to the driver and followed up if necessary with the consignor or carrier as needed (via CEMHD Unit 4). Inspectors contemplating enforcement action in cases where this advice is not appropriate or has not been followed are advised to consider risk and the intricacies of the requirements. In particular, the question of whether hazards have been nullified is not always going to be easy.
A UK derogation (see Dangerous Goods: Approved Derogations and Transitional Provisions") exempts from the documentary requirements of ADR, loads which are within the small load thresholds (see Main exemptions). ADR 18.104.22.168.3 states that for liquids, the threshold is the total quantity of dangerous goods contained in litres, and for compressed gases the threshold is the water capacity of the receptacle in litres.
Thus for most cases of empty uncleaned packaging, the small load exemptions (from some of the requirements) will apply. Thus no documentation would be required for GB domestic transport. The key remaining requirements are as follows:
There is no need to display orange plates, though it would not be an offence to do so. Some trade associations advise their members to display orange plates whenever the vehicle is carrying dangerous goods, but the small load exemptions may still apply.
Adopting this approach should ensure good standards, and compliance with almost any interpretation of the requirements, and minimise the stopping of what should be low risk vehicles for ADR reasons alone.
Empty uncleaned former inner packagings can present some special issues in respect of compliance with the packaging provisions: