make sure youre covered
When its dangerous
With changes imminent in the law covering the transport of dangerous goods, the NFUs legal adviser Steve Smith steers Andrew Pearce through their likely implications for farmers
Agriculture and the approved carriage list
Most of these substances are already classed as dangerous for road transport. Items marked * are newcomers.
Ammonium nitrate fertilizer (high-N only)
Diesel fuel oil or heating oil *
Workshop gases (oxygen, acetylene)
Seed cake *
Sodium hydroxide solution
Environmentally Hazardous substances (not otherwise specified) *
SOMETIME this year – probably early in July – a fresh set of rules governing the way dangerous goods are transported on the roads comes into effect.
Weightily titled The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations 1996, the package tidies up UK legislation and harmonises it with international accords. Although the exact wording of the new laws wont be known until publication, their general direction is clear.
Farmers and contractors already carry goods deemed to be dangerous, and the list of these will be extended. Most people, though, should benefit from one or more likely exemptions and drivers should not need special training – but where no exemption(s) apply, the transport operation will have to comply with the same comprehensive rules which bind hauliers. While emphasising that nothing is yet in black and white, Steve Smith suggests the adjacent flowchart should show how individual farming operations might be affected; see the notes below for explanation section-by section.
Flow chart explained
Box 1: Goods include substances and articles. Those most relevent to agriculture appear in the Approved Carriage List, which lays out some 2500 items classified as dangerous – see panel for farming related extract. New list additions are diesel fuel, seed cake (which can self-heat under some conditions) and the wonderful catch-all of "Environmentally hazardous substances (not otherwise specified)". This means anything not already on the list which fails the official danger test – including the substances affect on wildlife.
Box 2: Bulk means in an open or sheeted container. Any volume of straight ammonium nitrate fertiliser carried in a spreader falls in this definition, but lower-N blends do not. Tank now covers all sprayers, bowsers and the like. A Package can be anything – a bottle, drum, sack, box or other.
Any volume of dangerous goods (as liquid or solid) in bulk comes under the new regs. Packages, though, are slightly more complicated. Three considerations apply – hazard category, package volume and total load carried.
Where dangerous goods are to be carried in a package, look first at their category. Approved Carriage List items are put in Packing Groups, with Category 1 the most hazardous and Category 3 the least. With the Category established, consider the package volume. If this exceeds:
• One litre for a Cat 1 product
• 10 litres for a Cat 2 product
• 25 litres for a Cat 3 product
Then the rules may apply. As high N fertiliser is in Cat 3, the road transport of all small and big bags will probably fall under the coming laws.
Still with it? Good. If the combined Category/volume of the substance to be carried puts it under the regs, then consider its total weight. The boundary line for inclusion – the Total Load Threshold – again depends on the Category. Below the following, goods are exempt:
• Under 20 litres or kg total for Cat 1 goods
• Under 300 litres or kg total for Cat 2 goods
• Under 500 litres or kg for Cat 3 goods.
So a load of nineteen 25kg bags of high N fertilizer (total 475kg) should be OK, but 20 bags (500kg) will not be. Where a load is clearly going to be of a substance, volume, and weight which runs foul of the rules, the next question is: Am I covered by an exemption?
Box 3: Subject to their introduction, two areas of exemption will be of interest to farming – both fought for long and hard during negotiations.
The Private Premises Movement Exemption should apply where a contractor or farmer can argue that dangerous goods are being moved from one part of private premises to another. If a farm is considered to be one large private premise, then exemption should be total.
Agricultural Exemptions. There should be four of these, but no single one will be total and all will be conditional (see below). All should apply whenever agricultural motor vehicles – tractors, self-propelled sprayers and spreaders, ATVs and such – are used to transport dangerous goods.
• Exemption A is for High N fertiliser. Loads up to 10t can be hauled between parcels of lands up to 12km (7.5 miles) apart, as long as parcels are in the same occupation – that is, farmed by the same individual.
• Exemption B covers approved pesticides and plant protection products, but not sulphuric acid and wood preservatives. Transport of the former up to a distance of 50km (31 miles) is exempt from many of the rules, but only on two conditions. The substances must be diluted ready for use (or be in a condition otherwise ready for use); and transport must be between two parcels of land occupied for agriculture. Note the wording: In this case, the land can be owned by two different farmers, so contractors can breathe again – unless their base happens to be on land not occupied for agriculture.
• Exemption C deals with a substance new to the Approved Carriage List – diesel fuel. Where transported volume is under 5000 litres (1100gal), exemption applies to movement between land parcels occupied for agriculture up to 50km (31 miles) apart. But special conditions apply – the bowser must carry specified hazard warning sign(s) and the outfit must have a specified type of fire extinguisher. So all farm fuel bowsers will need these, no matter how small.
• Exemption D covers packaged goods – bottles, cartons, bags and so forth. Carrying these in diluted, ready-for-use form is OK, as long as land parcels are in the same occupation, no more than 12km (7.5 miles) apart, and the total mass is under one tonne. How about concentrated pesticide in containers? Unless "ready to use", then only the private premises exemption applies and none of the agricultural exemptions do. But as most pesticides are classified as Cat 3 products, to come under the new rules they would have to be carried in containers exceeding 25 litres (5.5gal) and in a total load exceeding 500 litres (110gal).
As with any new legislation – and this is the most complex transport-related chunk to date – time will turn up loopholes and anomalies which, over time, will be sorted out in court and precedent established. At this stage it looks as though most agricultural work will be able to claim one exemption or another. Thats the good news.
The bad news is that conditions will be attached. Exactly which conditions will be revealed when the regulations appear, but the list is likely to include: Specific vehicle marking requirements; the carrying of information on each substance being carried for use by emergency services; an obligation to see that the transport vehicle is fit for the purpose; and a requirement that any tank over 450 litres (99gal) is inspected, tested and certified by a competent person every six years – starting in 1999. Just who qualifies as a competent person remains to be seen. *
Agricultural exemption B covers diluted pesticide in a sprayer tank. Carrying concentrated substances should also be OK, as long as chemicals are Category 3 products and below volume/total load limits.