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Safety first: Mastering dangerous goods transport from A to Z

DB Cargo BTT makes sure dangerous goods reach their destination quickly and safely.

Ethylene oxide, ammonia and mineral oil are just three examples of different substances that have one thing in common: They are classified as dangerous goods because they have dangerous properties, such as being highly flammable or toxic. Or even because they pose an explosion risk. And that means that when chemicals like these need to be transported, the focus has to be on doing it safely. 

DB Cargo BTT, with its more than 30 years of dangerous goods expertise, shows just how successfully this can be done. Now a subsidiary of DB Cargo, BTT has been transporting sensitive chemicals and mineral oils since 1989. At that time, five forwarders and operators joined forces to form BTT Bahn Tank Transport GmbH, which had one important mission: to shift as many dangerous goods transports as possible to rail. “The decision did not come about by chance,” explains Stephan Bude, Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser at DB Cargo BTT. “Rail is by far one of the safest modes of transport. Statistically, 42 times fewer accidents happen on rail than on the road. What’s more, hazardous goods transports are much more sustainable by rail, with each train saving 80 to 100% of the CO2 emitted by the equivalent road transport.”

More about the history of DB Cargo BTT

With over 30 years of expertise in dangerous goods, DB Cargo BTT is now one of the leading rail logistics providers for chemicals and mineral oil. Several freight forwarders established the company, known then as BTT Bahn Tank Transport GmbH, in 1989. Their aim was to shift more dangerous goods transports to safer rail. The venture has been a resounding success. The dangerous goods specialist, which is headquartered in Mainz and has belonged to Deutsche Bahn AG since 1994, handles around 12,000 block train transports and nearly 340,000 single wagon consignments per year for its customers on the Europe-wide rail network. And that’s not all. DB Cargo BTT integrates a number of rail logistics services into its logistics concepts and offers its customers multimodal solutions from a single source. DB Cargo BTT employs around 170 people at four locations.

Maintaining an active dialogue and keeping information flowing

Transporting sensitive freight of course requires special care. That means that every transport is seamlessly monitored, and processes are documented and continuously improved. In addition, internal and external checks and inspections are routine. “It is essential for us to look at the entire transport chain, which can only function if everyone involved cooperates and supports each other. That includes everyone knowing what everyone else’s job is, for example, even if they may not have anything to do with it personally,” says Bude. “That’s why we need the flow of information to work and to maintain an in-depth dialogue. We discuss not only what needs to be optimised, but also what is going well, so that we can fine-tune processes together and keep adapting and improving them over the long term.” 

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Safety Meetings

Safety meetings are held with certain customers multiple times a year to ensure a regular dialogue takes place between all parties involved. In conjunction with these meetings, managers from DB Cargo BTT visit their customers on site and get an idea of the different procedures and processes at the loading facilities and track systems. The safety meetings also focus on sharing ideas about joint developments and potential for improvement. “Opportunities like these are crucial so that we can learn from each other and grow together,” says Bude.

Safety is top priority

And just in case, DB Cargo BTT is also well prepared if a disruption or irregularity does occur despite all the safety precautions taken. It has a comprehensive set of internal rules that go into effect along with a list of measures to be carried out, an emergency management system and a reporting chain. “We have an on-call service 24/7, 365 days a year. In the event of an emergency, an internal group of experts from a wide range of DB Cargo BTT departments ranging from operations to sales will even come together if necessary and work to find a quick solution for our customers and take any measures to protect society. We provide advice and support, ensure that information is shared quickly, and take action if necessary,” Bude says.

The right equipment at all times 

DB Cargo BTT has a diverse and modern fleet for transporting sensitive products, including:

  • Compressed gas tank wagons
  • Tank wagons for chemical products
  • Bulk freight wagons for free-flowing goods
  • Dry bulk freight wagons and silo tank wagons for particulate products
  • Salt wagons
  • Container wagons
  • Various tank containers and curtain-side containers 


If required, DB Cargo BTT can provide you with modern tank containers with the highest transport standards for your sensitive product.


Certified expertise in dangerous goods

Dangerous good transports are only permitted if the relevant national and international legal provisions are complied with at every step in the transport process. “We aim for maximum safety throughout the entire supply chain, from consignor to consignee,” says Bude. “Which is why we also actively participate in the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) Safety and Quality Assessment System (SQAS) in several European countries and are certified accordingly.” DB Cargo BTT also has ISO 9001 certification, confirming its high safety standards.

Read more here: Safety and Quality Assessment System

The Safety and Quality Assessment System (SQAS) is a standard of the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), which assesses the quality, safety and environmental compatibility of logistics providers. Assessments are carried out by independent experts using a standardised questionnaire. An SQAS assessment is increasingly a requirement for logistics companies to be able to work for the chemical industry. “We earned 93%, an excellent score that puts us in the top tier of logistics companies,” Bude says. Companies are certified every three years

New dangerous goods: “You never stop learning”

Special challenges also arise when new hazardous goods need to be transported, Jennifer Thierbach, Head of Chemicals, explains: “It is always important to stay on the ball when it comes to hazardous goods. Just in the last few years, so much has happened in hydrogen and battery transport that continuous learning and training are essential, for example so we can learn about new equipment.” The DB Cargo BTT team maintains an active dialogue with all participants, such as various official bodies and the Federal Railway Authority.  

Strong network and customised solutions

Last but not least, DB Cargo BTT also offers a number of other services in addition to transporting dangerous goods. “We’re able to combine the strengths of an innovative dangerous goods forwarder with the advantages of the entire DB Cargo network,” says Gabriele Jansen-Krekels, Head of Mineral Oil. “We offer our customers a wide range of services tailored to their individual needs – from operational and technical fleet management to fleet-related services. And on top of that, customers benefit from our decades of logistics experience and the extensive knowledge of our team.”

Rail Safety Days

Safety always comes first. That’s why DB Cargo BTT has developed a concept that is the only one of its kind in the industry: Rail Safety Days. The DB subsidiary invites a wide range of stakeholders and experts from among its customers and partners in safety and dangerous goods to share the latest information on dangerous goods. The Rail Safety Days also include training and practical exercises on technology, risk prevention and procedures to follow when incidents occur.


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At the Rail Safety Days, training courses and practical exercises are held for employees of all participating companies on the topics of technology, hazard avoidance and the procedure to be followed in the event of incidents.


Contact our expert now.

Stephan Bude

Dangerous Goods Officer DB Cargo BTT