Law Enforcement and Hazmat Placards: What's the Deal?

  • Posted on: 15 March 2018
  • By: admin

Hazmat Placards tell law enforcement and emergency responders a ton, more than most people think. They are not just denoting the hazard of what is being hauled. Hazmat placard display important information on how to approach a problem situation. So what do law enforcement and emergency responders look for when it comes to enforcing the use of hazmat placards?

One of the main things they look for is proper display. If a placard is not properly displayed it creates a suspicion that what is inside the transport might be improperly secured or be a clue to other safety issues. It's called the broken window theory and can be used as probable cause to stop and search a vehicle with placard problems.

Some of the most common display problems are weathered or faded placards. For instance, a class 3 flammable liquid placard that is old, faded, or suffering from oxidation can begin to look pink or even white. This means that, especially from a distance, it can be mistaken for a class 2 inhalation hazard or class 6 hazard. An orange class 1 explosive sign is supposed to be orange. If faded or oxidized the placard can take on a yellow quality and be mistaken for a class 2 or class 5 placard.

Another major problem they look for is a hazmat placard being improperly affixed. According to the Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety administration, a hazmat placard must be:
1. Unobstructed,
2. On point (meaning displayed as a diamond, not a square),
3. Clearly visible on all sides of the vehicle,
4. Securely affixed,

Meeting these requirements is easy enough, yet how often do you see trucks with a paper hazmat placard blowing in the wind, or a metal placard with one corner or section swinging free? This is hard to overlook and easy to fix.

Another display issue is contradictory placards on the same vehicle. For instance, don't post a class 1.4 explosive placard on one side of the vehicle, and a class 1.6 on the other. This is especially seen with class 3 flammable liquid hazmat placards, since fuel is such a common commodity transported on our roadways, and class 3 placards have so little variation. Make sure the class and sub-class are right.

This leads to the last problem. Make sure the hazmat placard displayed is the right placard for what is being transported. If law enforcement finds a class 3 flammable liquid placard on a load of class 5.1 oxidizer, well, things won't go well. Even if the just the sub-class is off, the whole placard is considered in error.

Your best bet is to take the time to check and double check, your hazmat placards. Spend the money and time to make sure they are up to spec, and if you need new ones, get new ones. Hazmat placards are serious business, displaying them properly is the right thing to do. For those interested in learning more, please visit ICC Compliance Center.