Regulatory environment


Development of dangerous goods legislation

1  Legislative control of dangerous goods began with the Petroleum Act of 1879 and the Petroleum (Consolidation Act) of 1928. The latter remained (with subsidiary regulations) the major legislative control on the transport of all dangerous substances until the 1980s.

2  Following the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, proposals were put forward for a single set of regulations, dealing with the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances and regulating the conveyance of dangerous substances by road in tankers, tank containers and packages. However, when the first consultative document was published in the late 1970s industry made it clear that this was too much to cope with, and it was agreed that the legislation would be divided into three codes:

  • The Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Dangerous Substances Regulations 1984 (CPR):
  • The Dangerous Substances (Conveyance by Road in Road Tankers and Tank Containers) Regulations 1981 (RTR); and
  • The Dangerous Substances (Conveyance by Road in Packages) Regulations 1986 (PGR).

3  The impact of the 1978 tanker disaster at a campsite in Spain, meant that the 'Road Tanker Regulations' were given priority and consequently these were introduced ahead of the other regulations.

4  In 1992 RTR and PGR were revoked, and replaced by:

  • The Road Traffic (Carriage of Dangerous Substances in Packages etc) Regulations (PGR 92); and
  • The Road Traffic (Carriage of Dangerous Substances in Road Tankers and Tank Containers) Regulations (RTR 92).

5  At the same time new regulations dealing with driver training were introduced:

  • The Road Traffic (Training of Drivers of Vehicles Carrying Dangerous Goods) Regulations (DTR).

6  In 1994 the CPR regulations were replaced by:

  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (Classification, Packaging and Labelling) Regulations (CDGCPL).

7  In 1996 these were replaced by

  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods (Classification Packaging and Labelling) and Use of Transportable Pressure Receptacles Regulations
  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations
  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (Driver Training) Regulations
  • Other regulations relating to explosives, radioactive materials  and other  matters
  • ACOPs and guidance were also published.

8  In 1999 various amendments were made but the most significant change was that the Transport of Dangerous Goods (Safety Advisers) Regulations came into force, requiring the appointment of "Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers" by many duty holders.

Current legislation

9 As a signatory to the European agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR), and a member state of the EU, the UK is committed to harmonisation of national and international regulations, as far as possible. Therefore, in order to align with the ADR and RID Directives, governing the carriage of dangerous goods by road and rail respectively, a consolidating set of regulations came into force on 10 May 2004. These were substantially restructured in 2007 to include all classes of dangerous goods for both road and rail transport.

10 The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (CDG Regs) have been restructured to create the majority of duties by direct reference to ADR. They were amended in 2011, mainly to take account of changes to the Transportable Pressure Equipment Directive.

11 The prescriptive nature of the regulatory package arises from the need to align domestic legislative arrangements with the ADR and RID codes for the carriage of dangerous goods on international journeys.


12 HSE is one of the enforcement authorities for many aspects of CDG Regs (but note that DfT is the "competent authority" for most purposes – see Regulation 25 and notes below).

13 Regulation 32 allows suitably qualified and appointed police officers and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) officers to enforce the regulations "on the road" (see Operational Strategy & Enforcement). That chapter also includes enforcement guidance.

International requirements

14  International standards on the transport of dangerous goods by road are derived from the recommendations of the UN Committee of Experts. These recommendations are contained in the so-called "orange book", and form the basis of a series of codes covering the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous goods for transport by road, rail, sea and air.

15  HSE is mostly involved with the codes for the carriage of dangerous goods by road (ADR). The IMDG code and the technical instructions issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) deal with the carriage of dangerous goods by sea and air respectively.

16  The ADR and RID Directives required EU Member States to incorporate the codes into national legislation by 1 January 1997, thereby applying them to domestic as well as international carriage.

17  The international working party on the transport of dangerous goods (WP15), normally meets twice a year to review the conditions governing the international transport of dangerous goods between European countries by road and rail, with the aim of aligning ADR and RID with the UN recommendations. Decisions taken by WP15, when subsequently approved, are included in the latest edition of ADR for implementation. ADR is updated every 2 years.


18  The ADR agreement allows dangerous goods travelling by road through more than one country to be exempt from the domestic legislation in force in those countries, as long as the requirements of ADR are met in full. However, ADR contains no provisions for enforcement and therefore, where a vehicle travelling under ADR does not comply in full, the vehicle becomes subject to all domestic requirements. As such any enforcement action would be framed in terms of the relevant domestic regulations.

19  In addition, vehicles registered outside the UK may also travel under ADR while carrying dangerous goods on journeys confined to the UK, ie on non-international journeys. This procedure allows for "cabotage", whereby 'foreign' vehicles may carry dangerous goods on domestic journeys without having to conform to domestic legislation. For example, a Dutch vehicle travelling under ADR on an international journey involving the consignment of dangerous goods from Rotterdam for delivery in Glasgow may pick up another load of dangerous goods in Glasgow for delivery in Hull. Although the Glasgow-Hull journey is not international the vehicle may still travel under ADR. Since GB domestic regulations now largely refer to ADR this distinction is of less importance than formerly.


20  The IMDG code contains internationally agreed guidance on the safe transport of dangerous goods by sea, and most commonly relates to the carriage of dangerous goods in freight containers and tank containers. Primarily it is used by shipping operators but it is also relevant to those transporting dangerous goods on journeys involving a sea crossing. In the UK many operators do not undertake complete international journeys but only visit a port to deliver or collect trailers, freight containers or tank containers which have been placarded with IMDG labels for sea journeys. Where there is full compliance with the IMDG Code, vehicles are exempted from the placarding requirements of ADR. The plain orange plates (front and back) should be displayed on the transport unit. If the load is a tank which is displaying the plate with the HIN and UN No., the rear plain orange plate will not be needed.  However, all other relevant matters including training, information in writing, provision of fire-fighting equipment etc, apply as under the regulations. For the exemptions on placarding to apply, the journey must involve dangerous goods being carried to a port for carriage by sea, or from a port having been carried by sea. More details may be found in "Frequently asked questions".

21  Individual countries are responsible for implementing the Code under their own legislation and in the UK this is done through The Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods and Marine Pollutant) Regulations 1990, which are enforced by the Department of Transport, and through The Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987, as enforced by HSE.

ICAO technical instructions

22  There are analogous provisions in respect of goods packaged and consigned for air transport. Enforcement is by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In this case, ICAO "technical instructions" set the relevant standards.  Details are obviously different but principles are similar. Airlines generally work to IATA rules which are based on the ICAO technical instructions.

Department for Transport (DfT)

23  DfT is the lead government department on all aspects of transport, in whatever mode. Consequently it is the Secretary of State for Transport who responds to Parliament on transport matters.

24  DfT also represents the UK on the various bodies responsible for producing international agreements and standards covering the transport of dangerous substances, ie ADR for road, RID for rail and IMDG for marine.

25  Regulations on the transport of dangerous substances are made under Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and are prepared by DfT.

26  DfT takes a close interest in the number of vehicle checks carried out and level of enforcement. HSE, DVSA and Police forces provide DfT with details of the number of vehicle checks carried out and the extent of enforcement action taken. DfT collates information from the checklists completed under the terms of the Uniform Monitoring Procedures Directive, and submits an annual report to the EC on levels of enforcement activity within the UK.

27  DfT is the UK competent authority for the certification of packaging. The testing and certification scheme is operated on their behalf by their agents, the Vehicle Certification Agency.

28  Organisations providing vocational training for drivers of dangerous goods vehicles must be approved by DFT. Information about approved training providers may be found on DfT's website.

29  The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) enforce the legislation dealing with the carriage of radioactive materials by road.

Liaison arrangements

30  Liaison between DfT, HSE, the Police, DVSA and other government departments takes place at the "Enforcement Liaison Committee", which meets twice yearly. HID is represented on the Committee by CEMHD Unit 4 and CEMHD Unit 7 (Explosives Inspectorate) and ND. The committee covers all dangerous goods including radioactive materials and explosives. The transport of radioactive materials is also the subject of a Memorandum of Understanding between DsT ONR. CEMHD Unit 4 also represents HSE in DfT and stakeholder liaison meetings.

31 Police, DVSA, DfT and HSE (CEMHD Unit 4) hold a "practitioners' forum" where operational problems are discussed. This meets 2 – 3 times per year. CEMHD Unit 4 prepares enforcement guidance in consultation with the practitioners' forum.

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Updated 2020-06-04