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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #12-0167 ([FedEx Express] [Mr. David Littlejohn])

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: FedEx Express

Individual Name: Mr. David Littlejohn

Location State: TN Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

October 3, 2012



Mr. David Littlejohn
Corporate Safety Advisor
FedEx Express
P.O. Box 727
Memphis, TN 38194-7622

Ref. No. 12-0167

Dear Mr. Littlejohn:

This responds to your August 7, 2012 email requesting clarification on the prohibited labeling requirements under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180). Specifically, you ask if a "square-on-point" or diamond shaped red label printed with the word "FRAGILE," affixed to a package shown in your attached photograph violates the prohibited labeling requirements under § 172.401(b) of the HMR, even if the package does not contain a hazardous material.

Section 172.401(b) provides that no person may offer for transportation and no carrier may transport a package bearing any marking or label which by its color, design, or shape could be confused with or conflict with a label prescribed in Part 172 of the HMR. This prohibition applies to packages containing hazardous materials as well as non-hazardous materials.
DOT prescribed labels and placards are designed to facilitate the immediate and reliable communication of information concerning the nature and quantity of hazardous materials moved in transportation, so that carrier personnel, law enforcement officials, and first responders know to take appropriate precautions in handling, law enforcement, and emergency response situations. Ultimately, the hazard communication system is only as effective as the ability of these individuals to identify and distinguish among designs. Accordingly, we cannot tolerate the use in transportation of designs and logos that are confusingly similar to hazmat labels or placards.

It is this Office's opinion that the square-on-point, "FRAGILE" label in the photograph that you provided is similar in shape (square-on-point or diamond shape) and color (red) to hazard warning labels used on packages containing hazardous materials; therefore, the square-on-point label with the word "FRAGILE" affixed to the package is unacceptable and prohibited under § 172.401(b).

I hope this answers your inquiry.



Robert Benedict
Chief, Standards Development Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division



Regulation Sections

Section Subject
172.401 Prohibited labeling