Driving dangerous goods and special loads abroad

International regulations and required documentation for hauliers transporting dangerous or hazardous goods by road or by vehicles on ships.

Hauliers must be aware of the laws on transporting dangerous goods by road, and the procedures involved in classifying such goods.

This guide gives an overview of these rules. It also covers how to make sure that vehicles carrying these goods, and their operators, are correctly certified in line with international regulations.

The European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR)

Moving dangerous goods by road is governed by international regulations and is strictly policed. Most European countries are signed up to ADR. Each country that complies with ADR implements specific safety measures through its own national legislation.

ADR ensures that any dangerous goods transported by road can cross international borders freely if the goods, vehicles and drivers comply with its rules.

ADR has been in force since 1968 and is administered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It’s updated every 2 years to take account of technological advances.

Annex A to ADR sets out the requirements for classifying, packaging, labelling and certifying dangerous goods.

Vehicles carrying dangerous goods must comply with Annex B to ADR, which includes vehicle and tank specifications and other operational requirements.

Drivers of all vehicles carrying dangerous goods must have an ADR training certificate. There are exemptions for drivers carrying:

  • small loads below the threshold limits
  • dangerous goods packed in limited quantities
  • dangerous goods packed in excepted quantities

You must register as a waste carrier to transport certain types of dangerous waste.


If you transport dangerous goods loads that are below certain volumes or weights, many parts of ADR may not apply, or only apply in a modified form.

General exemptions are listed in chapter 1.1.3. part 3 of Annex A to ADR. It includes the dangerous goods list, special provisions and exemptions related to dangerous goods packed in limited quantities.

Read about dangerous goods UK regulations on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Countries where ADR applies

On the UNECE website, see a full list of the competent authorities applying ADR.

Documentation required to carry dangerous goods

When transporting dangerous goods internationally under ADR, you must ensure that your loads are always accompanied by a transport document. This sets out detailed information on the load being carried, including full classification of any substances carried and how to package them. You must present the required information in a certain order and follow certain rules on language.

In addition to documents required under other regulations, under ADR you must ensure that the following documents are carried on the transport unit:

  • transport documents containing prescribed information for each dangerous substance, material or article being carried
  • emergency instructions in writing
  • means of identification, including a photograph of each member of the vehicle crew

Download ADR 2017 from the UNECE website for full documentation instructions.

In addition, if any part of your journey involves sea transport of the vehicle, see this information on moving goods by sea.

Emergency instructions in writing

The consignor of a vehicle carrying dangerous goods must provide the driver with details of the hazards associated with their dangerous goods loads and instructions on emergency action to take if an accident occurs:

  • before a journey commences, the driver/haulier must provide the instructions in writing (rather than the consignor)
  • the instructions must be in languages that every member of the vehicle’s driver/crew understand
  • one set of instructions – based on a 4 page model – covers all dangerous goods rather than specific products

Other agreements and legislation which may apply to dangerous loads

Some exceptions or ‘derogations’ from the provisions of ADR are allowed under certain multilateral agreements. These allow goods to be transported – usually for a fixed period – between or through any of the countries that have signed up to the multilateral agreement. If you are carrying dangerous goods under such an agreement, you must carry a copy of that agreement. You can check whether a multilateral agreement applies to your load and route on the UNECE website.

You should also check whether other legislation beyond the ADR applies to the dangerous goods you carry – for example, load restrictions on the carriage of petrol.

The dangerous goods vehicle approval certificate

To carry explosives or dangerous goods in tanks by road to or through countries which apply ADR, you may need to obtain a certificate under Annex B of ADR. You can view requirements of ADR 2017 on construction and approval of vehicles on the UNECE website.

Fixed-tank vehicles, tank-battery vehicles and other vehicles carrying explosives must undergo technical inspection and a certification procedure in their country of registration to make sure that they conform with ADRrequirements and to the standard safety regulations in force, for example covering brakes, lighting and steering.

In the UK, vehicles can be inspected at certain Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) Goods Vehicle Testing Stations. DVSA issues a certificate of approval, valid for one year, for vehicles that pass this inspection. Vehicle operators must pay a fee for the inspection.

For more information, see the guide on ADR and other tests for dangerous or hazardous goods vehicles.

Apply for an ADR test with DVSA’s ADR III form .

Driver training certificates required under ADR

Under ADR, drivers of vehicles with tanks and certain tank components, and some drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods in packages, must hold a special vocational certificate of training, sometimes referred to informally as an ‘ADR Certificate’.

All drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods must attend an approved basic training course. These courses equip drivers with information and tools so that they:

  • are aware of the hazards in the carriage of dangerous goods
  • can take steps to reduce the likelihood of an incident taking place
  • can take all necessary measures for their own safety and that of the public and the environment to limit the effects of any incident that does occur
  • have individual practical experience of the actions they will need to take

For more details on the different crew training requirements see chapter 8.2 of ADR on the UNECE website.

The ADR test required to certify vehicles used to transport dangerous goods

Vehicles used to transport dangerous or hazardous goods must undergo annual checks to certify that they are roadworthy.

Certain dangerous goods vehicles must have an extra test and certificate over and above the normal heavy goods vehicle roadworthiness test. This is known informally as an ‘ADR test’. It ensures that vehicles comply with part 9 of ADR. Vehicle requirements vary according to the nature of the goods being carried.

How to book your annual ADR dangerous goods vehicle test

Dangerous goods vehicle tests can be done at all DVSA test stations. An ADRvehicle test can be done at the same time as the annual test, for an extra fee.

Apply for an ADR road vehicle certification test.

You must complete a VTG15 form for any vehicles undergoing ADRcertification testing to certify that your vehicle is carrying dangerous goods.

You can read the UN official publication of ADR 2015 on the UNECE website.

Requirements for the carriage of dangerous goods on vehicles at sea

The carriage of dangerous goods in vehicles on ships is governed in UK law by the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods and Marine Pollutants) Regulations 1997. These regulations enact the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMDG code covers the carriage of goods, which have been classified as dangerous if transported by sea, or are a marine pollutant.

The ‘Blue Book’ referred to in previous guidance no longer exists. It has been replaced by Merchant Shipping Notices (MSNs), which are issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). MSNs cover mandatory information that must be complied with under UK legislation. These MSNsrelate to legal requirements and contain the technical detail of such regulations.

You can download a drivers’ checklist.

Guidelines for packing dangerous cargo in freight containers

The IMO publishes guidelines for packing cargo in freight containers or vehicles, as a supplement to the IMDG code. You can read about the code together with its supplements on the IMO website.

MCA publishes help and advice on the carriage of dangerous goods in ships.

Appointing a dangerous goods safety adviser

Companies engaged in carrying, packing, filling, loading and/or unloading of dangerous goods by road, rail or inland waterways may have to appoint a dangerous goods safety adviser (DGSA) to comply with ADR.

DGSA requirements and their role are explained in chapter 1.8.3 of ADR.

In the UK, the ADR requirements for appointing a DGSA are enforced under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Download ADR 2017 on safety adviser requirements from the UNECEwebsite.

Find details of exemptions to ADR 2017 regarding the carriage of dangerous goods by road on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Inspection of tanks used to carry dangerous goods by road

Before an ADR vehicle inspection is carried out, fixed tanks, demountable tanks, vehicles carrying batteries of receptacles and tank containers must be examined and tested by an inspection body approved by the Department for Transport (DfT). To get the appropriate certificates, your tank equipment will have to meet certain design, construction and equipment standards.

Apply for an ADR test.

Further information

Vehicle Certification Agency Dangerous Goods Office

For advice on moving or packaging dangerous goods, please:

DVSA Helpline

0300 123 9000

Published 10 September 2012
Last updated 25 January 2017 
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