Legal pitfalls in hazardous goods transportation

Legal pitfalls in hazardous goods transportation

The transportation of dangerous goods by road is heavily regulated under South African law. Norton Rose Fulbright admiralty and shipping team director PETER LAMB says these laws need to be understood by all involved in the sector.

The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 (NRTA) regulates the transportation of dangerous goods by road. The National Road Traffic Regulations (NRTR), 2000 published thereunder incorporate the South African National Standards (SANS). All transport operators are encouraged to purchase the applicable copy of the standards from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

“Dangerous Goods” is defined in section 1 of the NRTA to mean “commodities, substances and goods listed in the standard specification of the SANS 10228”. Section 54 of the NRTA states that no person shall, except as prescribed, offer for transportation in a vehicle, or transport in a vehicle, or accept after transportation in, on, or by a vehicle, any prescribed dangerous goods.

In Chapter VIII of the NRTR, Regulation 273A incorporates a number of SANS concerning the transportation of dangerous goods.

SANS 10229, for example, identifies various methods of packaging suitable for prescribed maximum quantities of dangerous goods transported by road. It describes minimum packaging performance requirements, as well as procedures to be followed to obtain approval from testing or certification authorities, details on labels and markings.

SANS 10231, meanwhile, establishes rules for the safe operation and handling of all road vehicles transporting dangerous goods.


The consignor is responsible for ensuring goods are correctly classified in accordance with SANS 10228, packaged in accordance with SANS 10229-1 and SANS 10233, and loaded by a qualified person(s) trained in the relevant procedures. The driver must be provided with a copy of the signed Dangerous Goods Declaration; and the operator must be supplied with either the correct placards and transport emergency card(s), or the information necessary to be able to provide these.


The operator can be either the vehicle owner or the person/company entering into an agreement with the owner to operate the vehicle. In either case, the operator must ensure that the dangerous goods operator card is displayed on the vehicle and agree the basic route with the driver, incorporating any specific requirements from all local authorities en route.

The operator is responsible for ensuring the driver has a valid driving permit for dangerous goods and is appropriately trained in terms of SANS 10231, as well as providing safety equipment (and training in its use) required by the driver in accordance with the transport emergency card.

They must also ensure that the vehicle and any equipment fitted to it comply with all applicable statutory requirements with regard to the applicable vehicle design standard. Furthermore, the vehicle must be roadworthy and suitable for the consignment to be carried, while the vehicle and all equipment must be maintained and inspected by a competent person, in accordance with SANS 10231.


SANS 10231 requires dangerous goods loading and offloading operations to be carried out by a qualified person trained in the relevant procedures. The standard sets out the requirements and safety precautions that the qualified person must ensure and adhere to. The consignee is responsible for offloading the dangerous goods and, unless otherwise agreed, must provide the qualified person to carry out all offloading procedures.


SANS 10231 prescribes various operational requirements concerning dangerous goods declarations, insurance, en route procedures, and equipment carried on the vehicle. It also sets requirements for vehicles that can legally carry dangerous goods, including vehicle registration and inspection by authorised persons, to ensure vehicle design and construction comply with SANS 1518 requirements for the design, construction, testing, approval, and maintenance of road vehicles and portable tanks.

Published by

Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
Prev Are your drivers dry?
Next How can we fix rail and transportation sector challenges?

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.