CHICAGO – The distinguished career of 95-year-old Abe Samuels finally concludes when his employer of 40 years, Chicago-based Labelmaster, hosts a retirement celebration May 26. Samuels’ crowning achievement, in addition to working every week and traveling on business while in his mid-90s, is one that will continue to be viewed by anyone who travels America’s highways.
Samuels is the developer of the Spacemaster flip placard system that allows trucks and tankers to easily display signage that indicates the presence of dangerous goods (DG) on board, so critical to alert first responders to any potential hazards if an accident occurs. The beauty of Samuels’ design is its simplicity and flexibility to communicate the wide variety of hazardous materials often transported on just one carrier to ensure regulatory compliance and foster safety.
“It wasn’t until 1976 when Congress mandated that placards be displayed on trucks to identify the many different kinds of hazardous materials being transported,” Samuels said. “For decades, Labelmaster has been helping companies meet DG regulations with packaging and labeling, but now placarding was required before shippers were put into commerce.”
Yet, this presented a challenge when a carrier transported a mixed load of various DG commodities that needed to be identified. Today there are nine categories of hazards with 24 divisions among them.
Samuels, relying upon his prior background in tool and die work and designing plumbing products, developed the Spacemaster, a flip placard system that enables carriers to quickly select and display the appropriate placard for each DG load. All of the required legends are available in one system, created by flipping numbers, colors and the names of hazard classes.
These systems would go on to become the standard in the industry used by most of the top carriers.
So, when stuck behind a truck on the interstate, one likely will see and admire Abe Samuels’ design that fosters safety, now affixed to thousands and thousands of trailers. It may even be a Samuels’ original, as he laments that the highly durable, corrosion-resistant aluminum frames and aluminum alloy placards seemingly last forever, minimizing repeat sales.