Rosetta stone for DOT hazardous material placards

Bill sez, "Every three years the DOT publishes the generically-named 'Emergency Response Guidebook', which is actually a decoder ring for the four-digit hazardous materials placards that adorn all sorts of transport trucks on our highways and byways. Although I'm not a first responder I have a copy in my glovebox, mostly to satisfy my curiosity (that truck's full of bleach? who knew!). You can buy a dead-tree copy from the GPO for only $7.50 (free shipping) or download a PDF from the DOT's website. . ." Link (Thanks, Bill!)


  1. I have maintained a fascination with these placards ever since I was a kid.

    Interesting stuff in it’s way.

  2. At my old job we were really friendly with the FedEx lady. The truck had one of these signs that could be configured to indicate different types of materials on board. Once in a while we’d flip the flip the sign over to radioactive when she wasn’t looking and see how long it took her to notice.

  3. Worth100 should run a contest to design placards for the “common” dangers that surround us: TSA, DRM, Copyfight, Mall Photography, GOATSE, TELECOM Immunity, etc.

  4. We used to have one of those when my dad was a firefighter. We really got a kick out of the fact that one of the items we came across in the book was “Cosmetics.”

  5. A few years ago I took the 2004 set of this data and produced a set of iPod Notes files using this data. It allows one to easily drill down to a particular NA number and find out what a vehicle is carrying. I find this quite fun while sitting in traffic and wondering what various vehicles are carrying.

    Those trucks with 1075 and the little silver cans? Propane or Butane. 1203 on a tanker? Gasoline.

    If you’d like to check out the work, it’s here: NA Numbers for iPod

    Please know that this comes with the VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER indicating that this is a UNOFFICIAL, DERIVATIVE COPY which SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON FOR ANY REASON (except your own amusement and entertainment).

    When I get some time (maybe this weekend or so) I’ll redo the work for the 2008 data set.

  6. I love this kind’a stuff. You’d be surprised what you can find as public documentation snooping around in fed, state and municipal sites.
    Here is a guide book for signing and traffic control for roadway’s and intersections in California. Basically a direction book on how to make a road.
    …I refer to it often for signage specification in road way signs in my job. (Weird thing about road signs in California and laws. Anyone can buy, make, have one made, own and for the most part install it any where you want to.. There are very few laws on the books regarding street signs and putting one up, though lots on taking them down. On privet property you can pretty much do any thing you want while on public property most municipalities laws are so loose that you can generally get a permit for installation with out too much trouble…or just put it in and see if any one notices.)

    There is an artist (used to be?) in California that goes around installing his own ‘counterfeit’ Cal State signs along the roadways. He goes around looking for miss or lacking traffic signage area’s and ‘corrects’ the problem. He even goes as far as counterfeiting a workorder’s to go along with the sign to present to the athorites if he gets stopped

  7. I’d love to have the collection of placards in some form of graphic form. I’ve searched the PHMSA site, anyone have any idea of where to find them?

  8. since the information on this thread pertains to the transport of hazardous materials which could be hijacked for terrorist purposes,I will be collecting the bounty on the lot of you after I make my report to DHS. If it’s any consolation, you will be featured in my first episode (“Agent Takuan, DHS Bounty Hunter!”

  9. #7 Mike, also try Lab Safety Supply.

    The DOT book is quite useful. Call me old fashioned, but I like knowing how far away I should stay from a truck on it’s side.

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