HazMat Transportation

Can Class 9 Placards Get You Into Trouble If Your Shipment Isn’t HazMat?

Question: I understand that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hazardous material regulations do not require a Class 9 placard for domestic transportation of either non-bulk or bulk shipments but that some shippers decide to attach a placard to their Class 9 domestic hazmat shipment with the applicable UN number even when the placard is not needed. Our truckers are concerned that if they have a Class 9 hazmat placard on their truck and get pulled over, even though the shipment is not technically a hazmat in the United States, they could get a ticket. Can you help us confirm that it’s okay to leave the placard on in this case?

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Answer: Pursuant to 49 CFR 172.504 (f)((9), a Class 9 placard is “not required for domestic transportation.” The regulation also states: “However, a bulk packaging must be marked with the appropriate identification number on a Class 9 placard, an orange panel, or a white square-on-point display configuration as required by subpart D [related to markings] of the part [i.e. 49 CFR Part 172]”. So some marking is required for Class 9 hazardous material in a bulk packaging (e.g. a truck), and it can be, but isn’t required to be, a Class 9 placard. Many shippers choose the placard option as it makes them more comfortable to use it. This may be because 49 CFR 172.502 “Prohibited and Permissive Placarding” states that “Placards may be displayed for a hazardous material, even when not required, if the placarding otherwise conforms to the requirements of this subpart.”

The situation described in the regulation above is a different than that you describe. You say your shipment is “not technically a hazmat in the United States.” The situation described above is in connection with materials that are technically hazardous materials, just “miscellaneous hazardous materials.” Having a Class 9 placard on a vehicle transporting a hazardous material, when that hazardous material can have a placard or another specified form of identification (the situation described above) is different than having a Class 9 placard on a vehicle that is not transporting a hazardous material (your situation). Note that 49 CFR 172.502 also states “no person may affix or display on a packaging, freight container, unit load device, motor vehicle or rail car any placard described in this subpart unless:

  • The material being offered or transported is a hazardous material;
  • The placard represents a hazard of the hazardous material being offered or transported; and
  • Any placarding conforms to the requirements of this subpart.”

Consequently, a Class 9 placard that is on a vehicle that is not transporting a Class 9 material is prohibited under the federal hazmat regulations.

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