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Markings in Truck Driving

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Section 397.21 of the MCSR gives guidelines for how a vehicle hauling hazardous substances is to be marked. Some of the guidelines involve size, shape and location of the markings. Others specify what the markings should say. Besides having markings showing the name of the carrier, the city and state in which the carrier has the principal office, etc., trucks hauling hazardous materials must be placarded in required shapes and colors.

Some commodities (or substances) require placards even if only very small quantities are carried. Other commodities only require placards if you are carrying 1,000 lbs. or more.

Drivers need to place one placard on each side of the vehicle and one each on the front and back. The front placard may be on the front of the tractor (or truck) or on the front of the trailer.

The carrier or driver must also label the rig with a hazardous materials identification number if it's applicable. This ID number allows officials to quickly identify the substance being hauled in case of an accident, leak or spill. Once they have identified the substance, they can determine what to do to protect lives and property.

In most cases, the number placard is only used for fluids - fuels, oils, etc. Other hazardous materials will normally be labeled only by the commodity's trade name, generic name and appropriate hazardous materials placard.

You are required to display the ID number in one of two places. You may display it right on the placard or you may display it on an additional rectangular orange panel.

Each individual package of hazardous materials must also be marked using the appropriate label. The type and degree of labeling depends on the hazard classification of the content of the container.

Shipping Papers

One of your responsibilities if you haul hazardous materials is this: to see that the shipping papers are properly prepared when you accept a shipment. That's your responsibility as a driver. CFR 172.200 explains what the shipping papers must contain, but here's the basic rundown:

Proper DOT shipping name of the substance

Hazard classification

Hazardous material ID number

The weight or volume of hazardous materials

The shipper's certification (where applicable)

If you are carrying hazardous and non-hazardous materials in the same vehicle, the shipping papers must clearly show which materials are the hazardous ones. This can be done in one of three ways specified in the CFR.

In addition, you need to tab the hazardous materials shipping papers and carry them on top of other papers in your rig.

Sometimes, even though you have taken every possible precaution, an accident still happens. If that were to happen, you could be incapacitated. You could be knocked out. For that and other reasons, the shipping papers in your rig need to be readily available and easy for the authorities to recognize at all times, whether you are available or not. This precaution is for your own safety, for the safety of your load, and for the safety of people and property along your route. Here are the regulations: At all times,
  1. The papers must be within your reach while you're in your seatbelt, at the controls of the vehicle.

  2. Anyone who enters the cab must be able to locate the papers because they are either clearly visible or in a holder mounted on the inside of the door on the driver's side of the vehicle.

  3. You must leave the papers on the driver's seat or in the holder on the driver's door whenever you leave the vehicle.
Loading and Unloading Hazardous Materials

CFR 177.834 gives regulations for loading and unloading hazardous materials. Here are some of the highlights:

Any vehicle being loaded or unloaded with a hazardous substance must be attended by a qualified and alert person. That person must stay within 25 feet of the vehicle at all times.

Shut off the engine during the entire loading and unloading process. The only time the engine may be left on is when you need it to provide power to a product pump to unload.

Set the parking brake and secure the vehicle with blocks if necessary so the vehicle won't roll.

Don't load any materials together if the current loading and storage charts (Section 177.848 of the CFR) prohibit loading them together.

See Chart No. 7-3 for a sample loading and storage chart. (Remember: Do not expect Chart 7-3 to be up to date. It is shown as a sample only. Write to the ATA, the DOT, or a publisher of trucking books and materials for a current chart.)

Properly ground or bond containers or cargo tanks when the situation calls for it.

Secure any tanks, barrels, drums, or other packages against movement during transport if they are not permanently attached to the rig.
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