Correct Usage of a Dangerous Placard?

Placards on a truck

An Interesting Combination

A recent training class took me to Iowa. Since it is so close to me, I decided to drive there rather than play the airport game. During the drive an old favorite song of mine came on the radio. The song is by Don Henley and called “The Boys of Summer”. In that song is the following lyric: “Out on the road today / I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac / A little voice inside my head said / “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” Take a listen:

What’s funny is shortly after hearing that song I passed an 18-wheeler truck. On the back and side of the truck was a “Dangerous” placard and a “Class 5.2” placard. A picture of each is shown here. In a very simplistic sense, placards are big hazard labels, roughly 9.84 inches on each side. They are placed on vehicles to warn people about the hazardous materials on or in that vehicle.

Hazard Class 5.2 Placard
Hazard Class 5.2 Placard
Dangerous Placard
Dangerous Placard

The 49 CFR has some unique rules for placarding, but what was on that truck struck me as interesting. I’ve never seen those things together before.  It is usually 1 or the other. Being a safety nerd I checked my regulations when settled in my hotel room. Placarding information is found in Section 172.500 of the 49 CFR. Here are some specifics for placarding vehicles.

Basic Rules of Placarding:

  1. All bulk packagings or vehicles transporting bulk packagings must be placarded on each side and end.
  2. For non-bulk packages, there are two tables to consult. Both can be found in 172.504.
  • If your material is a hazard class listed on Table 1, then it must be placarded following the same rule as bulk packagings.
  • If your package is a hazard class listed on Table 2, the rules are different. You only have to placard for the hazards on Table 2 when the vehicle contains more than 1001 pounds aggregate gross weight of materials on that table.

Table 1

Category of material (Hazard class or division number and additional description as appropriate) Placard name Placard design section reference §
1.1 EXPLOSIVES 1.1 172.522
1.2 EXPLOSIVES 1.2 172.522
1.3 EXPLOSIVES 1.3 172.522
2.3 POISON GAS 172.540
5.2 (Organic peroxide, Type B, liquid or solid, temperature controlled) ORGANIC PEROXIDE 172.552
6.1 (material poisonous by inhalation (see §171.8 of this subchapter)) POISON INHALATION HAZARD 172.555
7 (Radioactive Yellow III label only) RADIOACTIVE1 172.556

Table 2

Category of material (Hazard class or division number and additional description as appropriate) Placard name Placard design section reference §
1.4 EXPLOSIVE 1.4 172.523
1.5 EXPLOSIVE 1.5 172.524
1.6 EXPLOSIVE 1.6 172.525
2.1 FLAMMABLE GAS 172.532
3 FLAMMABLE 172.542
Combustible Liquid COMBUSTIBLE 172.544
5.1 OXIDIZER 172.550
5.2 (Other than organic peroxide, Type B, liquid or solid, temperature controlled) ORGANIC PEROXIDE 172.552
6.1 (other than material poisonous by inhalation) POISON 172.554
6.2 (None)  
8 CORROSIVE 172.558
9 Class 9 (see §172.504(f)(9)) 172.560
ORM-D (None)  

Here is an example of how Table 2 works. A truck has 4.1 Flammable Solids and 4.2 Spontaneously Combustible materials in non-bulk packages on it.  Together those materials add to over 1001 pounds. You would have to use placards on both sides and ends for both Class 4.1 and 4.2.

Using the Dangerous Placard:

In 172.504(b) the Dangerous placard is discussed. A transport vehicle hauling non-bulk packages with two or more categories listed on Table 2 may be placarded with a DANGEROUS placard instead of the separate placarding specified for each of the materials in Table 2. So, using the previous example, instead of using 4.1 and 4.2 placards, you can replace them with the single Dangerous placard. This saves space on the trucks and money because fewer placards are required. The drawback is the loss of clarity of the hazards in the vehicle.

Why Are Dangerous and Class 5.2 Placards Being Used?

Let’s go back to the truck I passed. It had both a Dangerous placard and a Class 5.2 placard. Is this correct? By following the rules above we can reason out the following. There is a container of Class 5.2 material on the truck. It doesn’t matter what size the package is because either rule requires Class 5.2 materials to be placarded. It could be a bulk package which would follow the basic rule. It could also be a non-bulk package. Since Class 5.2 is on Table 1 a placard would still be needed. Note, the Dangerous placard cannot be used for bulk packages or Table 1 materials. That means the Dangerous placard is there for another reason. There must be some combination of materials from Table 2 whose total weight exceeds the 1001-pound cutoff. Again, following the rules, this is the only reason why that placard would be there. While this isn’t the most helpful information, at least we have an idea of just how hazardous the load is.

For all of your placarding needs call ICC Compliance Center today.

2 thoughts on “Correct Usage of a Dangerous Placard?

  1. It is important to note that the Class 5.2 that appears on Table 1 only applies to Organic Peroxide, Type B, liquid or solid, Temperature Controlled. So on that vehicle you would have either any amount of the above mentioned organic peroxide OR 2,205 pounds or more of an organic peroxide on Table 2. If it was less than 2,205 pounds and from Table 2 the organic peroxide could also be covered by the Dangerous placard. 2,205 pounds of any one hazard category loaded at one facility requires the specified placard from Table 2.

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