Last reviewed 11 April 2012

Roy Boneham, Principal Consultant for the New Alchemy Training and Consultancy Organisation, looks at the legal implications of hiring drivers to cover for striking tanker drivers.


It has been alleged that drivers may be taken on to drive petrol tankers during the proposed strike after just two days of training. It is worth examining the extent to which this may be allowed by the regulations governing the transport of dangerous goods. There may be an element of truth in these statements but, as Roy Boneham aims to indicate in this article, the situation is not as clear cut as that. It is also advisable to look at the questions and answers that look at the employment law aspect of the issue (see the Questions and Answers item Possible Fuel Tanker Strikes).

The Regulations

The transport of dangerous goods by road is governed by The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (SI No. 1348). (There is a 2011 amendment to these regulations but they have no especial bearing on the training of tanker drivers.) SI 1348, in turn, implements a EU Directive, known as the RID/ADR/ADN Framework Directive, which, in particular, requires all 27 Member States to apply the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (the ADR) for both domestic and international transport operations. Apart from a few permitted national variations, there has to be a seamless divide between the requirements for domestic and international road transport across the whole of the EU.

Training requirements for driving dangerous goods vehicles

The ADR contains extensive requirements for the training of drivers of dangerous goods vehicles, which are set out in Chapter 8.2. This chapter requires all drivers of vehicles carrying significant quantities of dangerous goods to hold a training certificate issued by the national competent authority stating that they have “participated in a training course and passed an examination on the particular requirements that have to be met during carriage”. Be in no doubt that the carriage of liquid hydrocarbon fuels in tankers, such as petrol, diesel, kerosene and so on, counts as a significant quantity and that these drivers must hold what is usually referred to as an ADR certificate. For GB purposes, the competent authority for issuing the certificates is the Department for Transport (DfT). In Northern Ireland, the HSENI acts in a similar capacity.

Competent authorities are required to approve the training providers. Would-be trainers must apply in writing for approval. They must submit a detailed training programme specifying the subjects to be taught, information about the qualifications and fields of activity of the teaching personnel, information on the premises where the courses will take place and the teaching materials to be used, as well as facilities for carrying out the required practical exercises. These are onerous stipulations on the part of both the would-be training providers and on the DfT to ensure that the training is provided at a high standard across the whole of the EU. On top of this, continuous quality monitoring is undertaken.

The DfT entrusts the task of ensuring that the training providers and their training material, instructors and premises are satisfactory to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The SQA produces a detailed Manual of Practice (81 pages in length), which sets out the criteria for granting approval. This manual, of course, has the approval of the DfT. The ADR, as noted above, requires drivers not only to attend an approved training course but also to take exams. There are detailed requirements in the ADR concerning how the exams shall be devised and administered, and their purpose is to ensure that candidates have the knowledge, insight and skill to be professional drivers of dangerous goods vehicles. For tanker drivers, they would be required to answer at least 40 questions about the hazards of dangerous goods with at last 15 of these questions directed specifically towards the hazards associated with tanker transport.

The ADR goes further: it actually specifies the minimum duration of each course. What is required is that all drivers, no matter what kind of vehicle they are going to drive, must attend a basic course. The duration and content of this basic course are set out in chapter 8.2.

Training courses

There are no less than 15 different subjects that all drivers must be taught, ranging from the main types of hazard through to tunnel restrictions and (anti-terrorism) security awareness. This basic course has to be a minimum of 18 teaching units, with a “teaching unit” defined as a 45-minute period. Normally, a maximum of eight teaching units is to be delivered on any one day, meaning that even before drivers start to qualify as tanker drivers, they must have attended two and a quarter days of training.

The ADR then requires all tanker drivers to attend a specialisation course on tanks. This additional course must be at least 12 teaching units, ie one and a half days long. Tanker drivers must be taught about the behaviour of tankers on the road (movement of liquids) and acquire knowledge of the different filling and discharge systems, and so on. Thus, to become a petrol tanker driver, the length of the training should be three and three-quarter days long. On top of this, time has to be allowed for the drivers to sit the examinations for both the basic qualification and the tanker specialisation. When this is taken into account, it becomes clear that the time needed to complete the course will easily cross over into a fourth day.

There is one small caveat to this. The DfT and SQA recognise that there are many different kinds of road tankers, portable tanks, tank-containers and swap body tanks used to carry dangerous goods. These can range from the tanks for deeply refrigerated liquefied gas tanks (cryogenic tanks), arguably the most complex of all, through tanks for gases like LPG to tipping tanks for solids and specialist tanks for waste. Not all drivers need to know about cryogenic tanks or waste tanks, and certainly this kind of detailed knowledge would not be needed by petrol tanker drivers. Nevertheless, the DfT and SQA acknowledge that operators must give their drivers further specialist training on the particular kind of tanks they are going to have to operate. As a concession, therefore, the SQA states in their manual that: “The minimum number of teaching units for each part of the syllabus is generally aligned with the recommendations contained in Chapter 8.2 of the current edition of ADR. However, the ADR recommendation of a minimum of 12 teaching units to cover the initial tanker training syllabus has been reduced to 10 classroom-based teaching units. The shortfall of two teaching units is expected to be completed by the employer of the trainee providing training relating to the specific aspects of the tanker technical equipment and operation.”

This means that no operator could put qualified tanker drivers onto working with petrol tankers until this mandatory training on the tankers has been completed. This could entail, for example, ensuring they know that these are “gravity discharge” tankers, understanding how vapour return systems work and the special requirements for deliveries to forecourts.


Summing up, it might be possible for an operator to convert an existing packaged-goods driver who holds an ADR training certificate (ie for having attended a basic course) in two days or so. However, they could only do so if the driver attended a government-approved additional training course for tankers, took the additional examinations for this specialisation and then waited for the examination results to be processed and the additional qualification for tankers added to his or her existing certificate.

Latest statistics to hand show that it is taking around two weeks from taking and passing the exam to drivers being provided with their new or updated certificate. Thus, even if it were possible to complete an additional specialisation training course in two days or so, the newly qualified drivers may still have to wait two weeks or more before they can drive a petrol tanker.