Daniels Training Services

Whatever Happened to the “Drive Safely” Placard?

Whatever Happened to the “Drive Safely” Placard?

Stop and think, when was the last time you saw the once ubiquitous “Drive Safely” placard on a truck going down the highway?  It’s been awhile hasn’t it?  Since October 1, of 2001 to be exact.  On that date 49 CFR 172.502(a)(2) went into affect for all packagings, freight containers, unit load devices, motor vehicles or rail cars prohibiting the use of any sign, advertisement, slogan, or device that, by its color, design, shape or content, could be confused with any placard required by the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR).  This means that anything that could be confused with a hazardous material placard cannot be visible, this includes some formerly common placard-like images such as:

  • Drive Safely/Carefully
  • Have a Nice Day
  • Baby on Board

It also includes any product slogans or advertising.

But why?  The answer lies in the goal of the Department of Transportation which is the safe transportation of hazardous materials.  One of the foundations of this goal is communication of the potential hazards of a material in transportation.  Placards are one of the four hazard communication methods used to communicate the potential hazards of a material, the others are:  shipping papers, labels, & markings.  The DOT believes that anything that could be confused with one of the prescribed hazard communication methods may cause confusion and misinterpretation of the hazards.  So, if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but isn’t a duck; DOT doesn’t want to see it.

The prohibition of placard look-alikes applies even if you don’t ship hazardous materials since 49 CFR 171.2(k) reads:  “No person may, by marking or otherwise, represent that a hazardous material is present in a package, container, motor vehicle, rail car, aircraft, or vessel if the hazardous material is not present.”  So if you think a cool new logo for your milk delivery company is one resembling an explosive placard, think again.

If you have any questions about this regulation and how it may apply to your specific company logo, advertising, or other, the best thing to do is to contact the DOT for a written interpretation.  Provide them with photos of the sign, marking, etc. in question and ask clearly for a written response.  Questions of this nature or any regarding the HMR should be directed to the Hazardous Materials Information Center:

Call @:  800.HMR.4922 (800.467.4922) or Washington DC Metro area 202.366.4488

email @:  phmsa.hm-infocenter@dot.gov

Mr. Charles E. Betts
Director, Standards and Rulemaking Division
U.S. DOT/PHMSA (PHH-10)
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE East Building, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20590

While I can’t give you an answer with the authority of the HazMat Infocenter, I can tell you that training of your HazMat Employees is a requirement for anyone who transports a hazardous material or ships or receives a hazardous material.  HazMat Employee Training is one of the two training services I provide in my 8 hour training, the other is RCRA Training for Hazardous Waste Personnel.  I provide this training in public open enrollment events held nationwide and year round and on-site training right at your location and tailored to your site-specific needs.  Please contact me for a free consultation on your training needs or any question you may have about the HMR.