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How the UN's model regulations are moving the dangerous goods world

Currently, the United Nations Model Regulations for the Transport of Dangerous Goods are in their 23rd revision. A committee of experts of the United Nations Economic and Social Council has been developing these “UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods” (TDG) for decades: The so-called “Orange Book” is published anew every two years. It sets standards for secure logistics worldwide.

The UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG) meets in November for the last time this year. The decisions reached at a total of four meetings will be submitted to the higher-level UN committee in December for final approval. These changes will then be published in the 23rd revised edition of the model regulations in the second quarter of 2023 and implemented by 2025. They also touch on the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, which contains all the criteria, test methods and test procedures to be able to classify dangerous goods in the first place. (As of the beginning of the new year, the provisions that appeared in the 22nd revised edition with publication in 2021 will initially come into force).

Regulations for the airway

For aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel has already completed its work. The 2023-24 edition of the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air will enter into force on January 1, 2023, and will be valid for two years.

It represents the legal document for the transport of dangerous goods by air and is anchored in national legislation worldwide. In addition to the adapted UN model regulations, it also includes extensive airfreight-specific changes that regulate, for example, the transport of lithium batteries, but also new competency-based training rules that are already included in other aviation regulations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations are the working document for most air carriers. They are updated annually to reflect urgent safety issues and the additional requirements of some air carriers and states. The 2023 update will include all changes to the ICAO Technical Instructions and other changes. It will also be mandatory in the 64th edition as of January 1, 2023. A summary of the main changes will be issued before that date.


Regulations for the sea route

For the international carriage of dangerous packaged goods by sea, Amendment 41-22 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) was drafted and adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Again, the changes come from the latest UN Model Regulations and include, for example, new provisions for the carriage of portable tanks made of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP).

The IMDG Code usually enters into force one year after the other modes of transport. Amendment 41-22 becomes mandatory on January 1, 2024. However, the IMO is calling for it to be implemented as early as January 1, 2023. Many players handle intermodal shipments in international supply chains. In this way, the changes will quickly become established in practice.

European regulations as driver and basis

New amendments to the editions of the European regulations – RID for rail transport, ADR for road transport and ADN for inland waterway transport – will also come into force on January 1, 2023. They have largely followed the current UN model regulations, despite individual adjustments. The EU and the UK are giving the industry six months to adjust.

The ADR procedure was adopted by many countries and found its way directly into national legislation or formed the basis for national regulations. It is now so widely accepted that the 2021 ADR Agreement deleted the word “European” from its title. South America and Central America, the agreement serves as a basis for harmonizing road traffic regulations across the continent. And Australia is also comprehensively revising its dangerous goods law by 2024, based on ADR and RID.

Special case ADR

One problem faced by ADR in particular was that it already had regulations for FRP tank containers; which the UN Sub-Committee of Experts even used as the basis for its new regulations, but which differed somewhat. The 2023 edition of the ADR will therefore adopt the new UN regulations, but will also retain the existing set of rules. In the case of GRP tanks, this is likely to lead to a two-tier market, as has existed for many years in the case of conventional tank containers: with ADR/RID tank containers on the one hand and UN/IMO portable tanks on the other.

North America cannot (yet) agree

While the regulations for the transport of dangerous goods are almost completely harmonized in Europe, the situation is different in North America. U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) and Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) regulations differ greatly. With so much cross-border traffic, it hampers the economy.

Thus, both countries have been making efforts to achieve mutual recognition of some provisions in recent years. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is trying to keep up with the international system of biennial revisions: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is working to implement the international regulations by Jan. 1, 2023, to bring the HMR into compliance.

PHMSA is also working on regulations for the domestic transportation of lithium batteries by air, improving intermodal coordination, aligning regulations for the transportation of radioactive materials with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and more.

In collaboration with industry, HM-265A is under development, a more open set of rules that will address broader regulatory and reform initiatives. TDG Directorate activities should become more data-driven and responsive, with the goal of achieving more risk-based regulation.

In the meantime, Transport Canada is working on some important regulations such as introducing competency-based training and assessment requirements in the TDG regulations similar to those in the international aviation regulations. This could become a blueprint for other modes of transportation. A settlement is targeted for the second quarter of 2023.

Transport Canada also put forward proposals to introduce a registration system: Operators of facilities involved in the transport, handling and dispatch of dangerous goods must register and submit data on their activities. A final rule is expected to be published in the Gazette of Canada, Part II, in 2023.

A more general update of the TDG regulations in line with international regulations is also in the works. First results are expected in the second quarter of 2023.

China aligns

China is also aligning its legal framework more closely with international regulations and standards. These changes are expected to appear in a final version later this year.


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