Carriage of Dangerous Goods - ADR

Hazardous Chemicals and Dangerous Goods are transported throughout the United Kingdom, by road and rail every day. These goods include dangerous chemicals such as:

  • Acids 
  • Toxins and carcinogenic substances 
  • Explosives 
  • Radioactive materials 
  • Inflammable liquids 
  • Volatile chemicals likely to spontaneously combust or react with air, water etc.  
  • Inflammable, poisonous or compressed gases 

The 'European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road' or ADR, is a treaty dating back to 1957 from the United Nations regarding the governance of the international transport of Dangerous Goods. The original French name for the 1957 Treaty was: Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route.

The most important parts of the regulations are Annexes A & B.

Since the introduction of the regulations, both Annexes are updated and amended regularly as required.

European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR 2019) – Published November 2018 

The European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) was set out in Geneva on 30 September 1957 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and came into force on 29 January 1968.  

The Agreement itself was amended by the Protocol Amending Article 14 (3) set out in New York on 21 August 1975 and came into force on 19 April 1985. 

The Agreement itself is short and simple. The key element is the second article, which states that apart from some excessively dangerous goods, other dangerous goods may be carried internationally in road vehicles subject to compliance with:

  • The conditions laid down in Annex A for the goods in question, in particular as regards their packaging and labelling; and 
  • The conditions laid down in Annex B, in particular as regards the construction, equipment and operation of the vehicle carrying the goods in question.

Annexes A and B have been regularly amended and updated since the agreement came into force and so a revised consolidated version has been published as document ECE/TRANS/275, Vol. I and II ("ADR 2019"). 

The structure is consistent with that of the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (of the International Maritime Organisation), the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (of the International Civil Aviation Organisation) and the Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (of the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail). The layout is as follows: - 

Annex A – General Provisions concerning Dangerous Articles and Substances 

Part 1 – General Provisions 

Part 2 – Classification 

Part 3 – Dangerous goods list, special provisions and exemptions related to limited and excepted quantities 

Part 4 – Packing and tank provisions 

Part 5 – Consignment procedures 

Part 6 - Requirements for the construction and testing of packaging’s, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), large packaging’s, tanks and bulk containers 

Part 7 - Provisions concerning the conditions of carriage, loading, unloading and handling 

Annexe B: Provisions concerning Transport Equipment and Transport Operations 

Part 8 - Requirements for vehicle crews, equipment, operation and documentation 

Part 9 - Requirements concerning the construction and approval of vehicles 

Applicability of ADR 

Notwithstanding the transitional measures provided for in ADR 2019, which allow compliance with certain requirements contained in previous editions, the editions of ADR published by the United Nations which may be used for compliance are as follows:

Since 1 January 2019 

2019 edition (ECE/TRANS/275, Vol. I and II) (C.N.304.2018.TREATIES-XI-B-14
(Proposal of amendments to Annexes A and B, as amended) and CN.488.2018.


The amendments are contained in the document

ECE/TRANS/WP.15/240, ECE/TRANS/WP.15/240/Corr.1 and 

Since 3 January 2018 

2017 edition (ECE/TRANS/257, Vol. I and II) (see depositary notification C.N.744.2016.TREATIES and C.N.443.2016.TREATIES) as amended by depositary notifications C.N.345.2017.TREATIES and C.N.626.2017.TREATIES 

Health & Safety Executive 

Although the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is primarily responsible for enforcing the many regulations designed to ensure safety while these substances are in transit, it is the members of the emergency services who will have to deal with the consequences of any incident. 

The carriage of dangerous goods by road creates risks to drivers, other road users, the public and the emergency services. In addition, some substances create environmental risk. The HSE pursues an enforcement strategy that is proportionate to the level of risk, the objective of which is to ensure that high standards of compliance with the relevant legislation are achieved and maintained. 

There have been serious incidents in the UK and overseas which illustrate the potential risk, and the ACDS report, 'Major hazard aspects of the transport of dangerous substances (1991), indicated that past experience and previous rates of infringement do not necessarily provide an adequate basis for assessing the risk of rare but potentially very serious events. 

ADR is too large and complex a subject to explain thoroughly in these pages and here we merely scratch the surface. There are other elements that are also addressed in ADR e,g. the subject of wastes (including Clinical Waste). 

With the exception of clinical waste, wastes are classified in the same way as other substances. The rules at ADR mean that where generic or 'NOS' names are chosen, the substance or substances giving rise to the hazards may have to be named. The word 'WASTE' should qualify other descriptions where applicable (ADR 

Specific Requirements 

ADR also places specific duties on consignors, carriers and the consignee. This involves providing information, documentation, correct vehicle equipment packaging and labelling. In addition, vehicles carrying dangerous goods above the limited quantities provision will need to display orange plates identifying that they have dangerous goods on the vehicle. There are additional requirements for tanks. 

ADR requires that anyone involved in the carriage of dangerous goods by road must:

  • Act to avoid damage/injury from, and minimise the effects of foreseeable dangers 
  • Where there is an immediate risk to public safety, notify the emergency services and provide the necessary information 

When dangerous goods are being consigned for a third party, the third party must inform the consignor in writing that the goods are dangerous and make available all necessary information and documentation. 

ADR places specific duties on three principal classes of duty holder:

  • Consignor 
  • Carrier
  • Consignee

Asides from the 3 classes of duty holder (listed above), it also includes other participants, including (but not limited to) loaders, packers, fillers and operators of tank containers and portable tanks. ADR identifies certain instances where the relevant duty holder does not personally have to carry out the required actions but can rely on information provided by other participants in the carriage of dangerous goods. 

You can download the two volumes of ADR (2019) at the links below. 

If you wish to read the Dangerous Goods Regulation Corrigendum’s, these can be found at the links below.