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Freight Shipping Hazardous Materials: What You Need to Know

When freight shipping hazardous materials, DOT rules, and regulations need to be followed. Learn more about these standards and how a 3PL partner can help.


Ask Truckload
November 6, 2019
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When it comes to shipping hazardous materials, you have a responsibility to ensure that you adhere to the rules and regulations that are in place. From labeling to packaging, there are a lot of different factors that need to be addressed. Failing to comply with the requirements can have serious consequences. 

When freight shipping hazardous materials, DOT rules and regulations need to be followed. Every shipment that contains hazardous materials requires specific DOT labels according to what’s being shipped. Additionally, all employees involved in the transportation of hazardous materials must complete initial and ongoing training through the DOT.

Below, we are going to tell you more about freight shipping hazardous materials and the different rules and regulations that are in place today.

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DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations

There are a number of different rules and regulations that are in place when it comes to  freight shipping hazardous materials. This is something that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates. So, what is a hazardous material? The federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Act of 1975 (HMTA) and the legislation associated with it has defined a hazardous material as a material or substance that would pose an unreasonable risk to property, safety, or health when transported if not regulated. When the act was implemented, the DOT identified over 3,000 different types of materials that need to be regulated. There are also thousands of materials that have not yet been named that are regulated because they are infectious, corrosive, flammable, explosive, or hazardous in other ways.


If a package contains hazardous materials, it is going to need to be labeled correctly for shipping. The label is important because it indicates the sort of hazard that the material presents. The label will be based on the category of the hazard, which we’ll explain in full detail later in the guide.

It is important to note that you cannot create or make these labels by hand. You need to turn to a printing distributor to get these labels. Make sure they manufacture them in accordance with the specifications that have been released by the DOT in terms of color, shape, and size.

It is also important to note that there are instances whereby a package could contain more than one hazard. Section 172.101 of the PHMSA states that the hazardous material has a primary hazard yet may also have secondary hazards too. This could be one secondary hazard or more. For example, the primary hazard of a certain chemical could be that it is ignitable or flammable. However, the secondary hazard may be that it is reactive or corrosive as well. In instances like this, there are specific rules in place regarding how such a shipment should be packaged and labeled.

Shipping Papers

Now, we are going to take a look at the different shipping papers that are associated with hazardous materials. In some instances, there are going to be two sets of paperwork that are linked with a hazardous shipment:

  • Waybill or Airbill
  • Shipper’s Declaration of Hazardous Goods

These two forms can be combined in some cases.

You must include an emergency telephone number on the paperwork. This needs to be a phone number that can be accessed 24/7, which can be called if there is a problem.  


There are also training requirements for employees when it comes to transporting hazardous materials. These are spelled out in Subpart H 49 CFR 172.700 - 172.704. 

Training refers to a systematic program that will make sure employees:

  • Have knowledge regarding accident prevention procedures and methods, self-protection measures, and emergency response information
  • Have knowledge of the hazardous materials regulation requirements that are applicable to the functions those employees perform
  • Are able to identify and recognize materials that are hazardous
  • Is familiar with the general provisions of the regulations regarding hazardous materials

So, who needs this sort of training? This is required by any hazmat employee. A hazmat employee is someone who works within the transportation of hazardous materials. 

A hazmat employer is an individual, including an organization or company, that utilizes one or several of its employees in connection with the following:

  • The transportation of hazardous materials in commerce
  • Causing hazardous materials to be shipped or transported in commerce 
  • Modifying, selling, repairing, certifying, testing, marking, reconditioning, representing, or offering container drums or packages that quality them for the use of hazardous material transportation

Some examples of the different types of employees that need hazmat training are as follows:

  • Employees who determine if a material is hazardous
  • Employees who operate vehicles that transport materials that are hazardous
  • Employees who load or unload hazardous materials
  • Employees who fill out shipping papers for materials that are hazardous
    Employees who mark and label hazardous materials packages
  • Employees who put hazardous materials into packages,
  • Employees who determine the correct packaging for materials that are hazardous

All hazmat employees will need to receive both initial and recurring training that includes testing, in-depth security training, security awareness training, safety training, function-specific training, and more. General awareness training is designed so that employees get familiar with the regulations the DOT has implemented for manufacturers, transporters, and shippers. This enables employees to identify and recognize hazardous materials that are consistent with the categories and communications standards of DOT regulations.

For safety training, areas that need to be covered include:

  • Procedures and methods for avoiding accidents, such as the correct procedures that are needed for handling packages that have hazardous materials inside
  • Measures that will protect individual employees from the risks that are linked with hazardous materials to which they may be exposed to during specific workplace measures
  • What to do in case of chemical spills and hazardous material exposure
  • The emergency response information that is needed 

A new hazmat worker or a worker who has changed their job function will have 90 days to complete the training requirements for their job function. Once training has been completed, refresher courses are required every three years. It is also important to make sure that training records are kept with regard to training. These training records need to include the name of the hazmat employee,  the certifications that the employee has, the name and address of the person that has provided the training, and more.

Work with the safest hazmat carriers on the road today. 
Our record speaks for itself. 
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Cost of Shipping Hazardous Materials

Firstly, shipping hazardous materials is going to cost more than shipping standard freight because there are additional risks and procedures involved which leads to increased costs. Also, the cost is higher because many hazardous materials can’t be shipped with other loads. This means you’re likely going to need to pay for more space of a shipping container than what’s actually being used.  Even if hazardous freight doesn’t occupy an entire truckload, it may be the only item shipped because it’s harmful to other freight. This is something that your shipping company will be happy to explain to you when they provide you with a quote. They should explain all of the costs entailed and any extra expenses that need to be accounted for. 

Of course, there are a number of other factors that are going to influence how much you are going to be charged. The main one being the company you decide to work with. Later in the guide, we will provide you with some advice and information on how to find the best shipping company to assist with shipping hazardous materials.  

The best way to determine the cost of shipping hazardous materials is to get a hassle-free hazmat freight rate quote from a strategic partner like R+L Global Logistics.

Who is Responsible if Shipping Regulations Aren’t Followed?Who is Responsible if Shipping Regulations Aren’t Followed

It’s important to know who is going to be responsible should the correct shipping regulations not be followed. After all, the last thing you want to do is find yourself in trouble because the shipping company you have hired has not labeled or transported your materials in the manner they should.

It’s important to recognize that this is a shared responsibility between the shipper and the transportation company. Shippers need to be upfront and transparent about the goods they’re shipping. If they fail to share vital information that leads to non-compliance, the responsibility can lie with the shipper. The transportation company has their own guidelines that they need to follow in terms of handling, loading, unloading, and more. Therefore, this highlights the importance of ensuring you are fully honest and upfront about everything you are shipping. If you are not, and you have failed to be compliant, you could be to blame for what has happened. 

Below, we will outline the shipper and carrier’s responsibilities so you can get a better understanding…

  • Shipper’s responsibilities - When it comes to shipping materials that are hazardous, there are specific actions the shipper is going to be responsible for completing. This includes determining the shipment is hazmat. Other responsibilities include determining incident reporting, security planning, placarding, bracing and blocking, compatibility, certification, emergency response information and telephone number, shipping papers, employee training, correct markin, proper packaging, hazard warning label, identification number, class/division, and proper shipping name. 
  • Carrier’s responsibilities - Now, let’s take a look at the responsibilities that the carrier has. The shipper’s and carrier’s responsibilities tend to overlap. Whenever a shipper requirement is performed by the carrier, the carrier needs to finish the function in accordance with the rules and regulations. Carriers are responsible for making certain that the space for the cargo in the vehicle is suitable for the materials that are being shipped. The truck has to be in good mechanical condition. They also need to ensure that the materials have been correctly described and packaged by the shipper.
Work with the safest hazmat carriers on the road today. 
Our record speaks for itself. 
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Shipping Insurance for Hazardous Materials

There are specific insurance requirements that hazardous material haulers face when shipping dangerous goods. Depending on the cargo, shipping companies must provide insurance liability, typically between one and five million dollars

If companies do not comply with the insurance requirements that are in place regarding the shipment of hazardous materials, they may be subject to fines and civil penalties, as well as potential incarceration. 

Your transportation of hazardous materials insurance policy should cover liability for on-going contamination, site pollution clean-up operations, in-transit coverage, and loading and unloading cargo.

As you may expect, the insurance rates that are needed for transporting hazardous waste or hazardous materials are going to be more expensive when contrasted with hauling hay and other harmless products. Most truckers will need to have a minimum liability of $750,000. However, for hazardous materials, you’re going to need somewhere between $2,000,000 and $5,000,000, depending on the commodity. 

The marketplace is very inefficient when it comes to insurance for hazmat haulers. Premiums differ greatly from company to company. Getting quotes from a number of different companies is the best way to go about this. 

Packaging and Handling Hazardous Materials Packaging and Handling Hazardous Materials

Now, we are going to take a look at the different packaging and handling requirements for hazardous materials. There are a number of factors to consider when packaging and handling hazardous materials. After all, incorrectly packaging and/or handling hazardous freight can lead to dangerous leaks, spills, and exposure. 

You need to ensure that hazardous materials are stored away from direct sunlight and heat. Sunlight and heat can impact chemicals, causing them to degrade, deteriorating labels and storage containers. You also need to make sure that the lids and caps are tightened securely onto the containers. This stops the evaporation of contents and leaks. 

Approved flammable storage containers or lockers must be used for the storage of combustible and flammable liquids that exceed 10 gallons. Combustible and flammable liquids that are kept in secondary containers like squeeze bottles need to be kept on bench tops and countertops, so long as they are kept in secondary containment and are not over the ten-gallon limit.

Inorganic acids need to be stored in acid or corrosive storage cabinets. You need to ensure their hardware, i.e. shelf brackets and door hinges, and interiors are resistant to corrosion. Corrosive storage cabinets can exist as standalone units or they can be situated under fume hoods. You cannot use flammable storage cabinets for inorganic acid storage because they are not resistant to corrosion. Some type of slip-resistant material or surface must be used to stop materials from falling off open storage shelves.

You need to make sure that the refrigerators you use for storing combustible and flammable liquids are designed for that purpose. Ordinary domestic units cannot be used. You also need to ensure that food is not stored in refrigerators that are designated for hazardous material storage. 

When refrigerators are being used for chemical storage, or for media or samples, you need to use labels, such as “Caution—Do Not Store Food or Beverages in This Refrigerator.” So long as these labels are affixed securely to the refrigerator and they are legible, you will be able to fabricate them yourself. You do not need to put any posting on refrigerators that are situated outside of the hazardous materials storage area and are used for food and beverages.  

Work with the safest hazmat carriers on the road today. 
Our record speaks for itself. 
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Separating Incompatible Materials

Not only do you have to worry about packaging and handling hazardous freight, but you also need to be aware of possible dangerous reactions between other freight on board. Incompatible chemicals need to be segregated from one another if they pose any type of potential risk.  For example, storing flammable solvents and oxidizing acids in different locations. This is important to stop incompatible chemicals from mixing inadvertently, which can result in explosions, fire, heat, and the production of harmful vapor and gases. 

Keeping track of which materials are compatible to be shipped together can be a struggle. Luckily, federal regulations explicitly state this in 49 CFR 177.848 through the use of a hazardous materials segregation table based on the individual class of each item. 

Transportation Methods for Hazardous MaterialsTransportation Methods for Hazardous Materials

Almost all types of carriers are used for the transportation of hazardous materials, in many different types of packages and shipment sizes. There are carriers that have been specially designed to transport these sorts of materials. However, there are also carriers that carry them and have not been designed with this in mind.  

Hazardous cargo movement is a standard part of the business of shipping lines, barge operators, and big railroads. The same is true when it comes to specialized carriers, for example, tank truck operators and other trucking businesses that frequently move products such as cleaning chemicals, batteries, and paints. It is estimated by DOT that there are roughly 45,000 carriers in all modes that have operations and equipment that are specifically dedicated to transporting hazardous materials. 

According to their statistics, at present, there are around 400,000 large trucks dedicated to providing a hazardous materials service, as well as 3,000 tank barges operating on coastal waterways and inland in this domain. Also 115,000 railroad tank cars. The Department of Transport also believes that there are a minimum of 500,000 carriers that transport materials of a hazardous nature on a periodic or occasional basis. 

Work with the safest hazmat carriers on the road today. 
Our record speaks for itself. 
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Shipping Hazardous Materials InternationallyTranspoShipping Hazardous Materials Internationallyrtation Methods for Hazardous Materials

There are a number of different things that you need to be aware of when shipping goods internationally. You need to ensure you are aware of the different rules that apply in different territories. Some countries can have exemptions for shipping and labeling requirements for internal shipments but this may not be the case in every country. With international shipments, full compliance with all regulations are needed. This is why it is important to work with a trusted international logistics and transportation provider so you can determine the requirements for the packages that are being shipped. 

For example, in the United States, a lot of perfume products are exempt from full compliance with hazmat regulations. This is so long that the packaging indicates that ‘ethyl alcohol’ is contained. Nevertheless, internationally, perfumes need to be shipped as fully regulated goods. If shipped by air, perfume containers or bottles must meet all pressure tests. An experienced international logistics company will be able to provide support in this area to determine any additional regulations that your shipment is subject to.

Shipping hazardous materials by air

There are a lot of products that are classified as hazardous, even goods that may not come across as harmless. Perfume, nail polish, and cooking oils are all flammable items, and so they will need to be packaged with care before they are transported. There are, of course, more obvious goods that need to be shipped carefully and are marked as hazardous, including flammable materials, chemicals, explosives, and dry ice. Shipping companies need to follow the regulations that the International Air Transport Association has put in place. This means labeling items correctly, with nine different categories to choose from. There are also packaging and documentation requirements that must be adhered to as well. 

Shipping hazardous materials by sea

There are similar rules that are applicable when it comes to goods being transported by sea. The International Maritime Dangerous Goods code outlines the hazardous goods shipping regulations that need to be followed. They make sure that supply chain organizations keep workers, various vessels, and the environment safe while they deliver goods out at sea. When it comes to shipping hazardous goods, the correct labeling and classification is a necessity. Both outer and inner packaging need to be used so that the safe handling of hazardous items is supported, ensuring the materials that have been used for packing do not react dangerously with other substances or weaken. Package segregation is another important consideration. If an item could dangerously react with other items, it needs to be separated from other substances that are on the vessel.

Shipping Hazardous Materials FAQShipping Hazardous Materials FAQ

There are a number of other questions that you may have about shipping hazardous materials, 

How do I ship materials that are radioactive? The Department of Transportation (DoT) will regulate these shipments during transit. They will set the standards for smaller quantity packages and labelling. Aside from this, the NRC will oversee nuclear material transportation and ensure that safety is adhered to. This is through the use of a combination of a system of monitoring to ensure requirements are being met, inspections, transportation package certification, and setting regulatory requirements. 

What are commercial invoices? The shipper of the goods will generate a commercial invoice to declare the financial value of the goods that have been exported. Foreign customs agents will use the declared value to evaluate monetary duties that must be paid for before the package clears customs. 

What are infectious substances? Infectious substances are those that are known or are reasonably expected to have pathogens in them. What is a pathogen? A pathogen is a microorganism, for example, fungus, parasites, viruses, and bacteria, as well as other agents such as prions, which can cause disease in animals or humans. There are two groups of infectious substances. The first is Category A, which is infectious substances that can cause fatal disease, life-threatening disease or permanent disability when an otherwise healthy animal or human is exposed to it. Any other infectious substance will fall into Category B.

How long must shipping papers for hazardous materials be kept? Hazardous waste manifests, which are the shipping papers, need to be kept for at least three years once the initial carrier has accepted the material. The shipper must keep the papers for two years once the initial carrier has accepted them. Carriers need to keep the shipping papers for one year once the material has been accepted.

What is the shipper’s responsibility? The shipper is responsible for making sure that the materials are classified and identified properly. Moreover, they are also responsible for packaging, marking, and labelling these standards. There are national and international regulations, which are put in place for dictating what is a hazardous material and what isn’t.

Work with the safest hazmat carriers on the road today. 
Our record speaks for itself. 
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Choosing a Hazardous Materials Transportation CompanyChoosing a Hazardous Materials Transportation Company

There are a number of different factors that you need to consider when you are looking for a company to transport hazardous materials for you. Below, we will take a look at some of these factors in further depth to give you a helping hand. 

  1. Be sure the company is equipped to meet your needs

The first thing you need to do is make sure that the company you choose is able to fulfil your requirements. After all, there are many different reasons for needing a hazardous materials transportation company. You may need to transport explosives from one country to another while another business owner may be looking for someone to assist with their hazardous waste. This is why it is important to take a look at the services the company offers and their area of specialism. This will help you to determine whether or not the company in question is right for you.

  1. Don’t automatically go with the lowest price.

Aside from this, while price is important, do not let it be the only determining factor. Simply looking for the cheapest hazardous materials transportation company you can find is a recipe for disaster. How are they able to offer prices that are so cheap? Is it because they cut corners? While looking for a good deal is always important, let price be the final determining factor. Make sure the company can fulfil all of your requirements and that they have a good reputation first.

  1. Confirm regulatory compliance 

You will also need to conduct due diligence to make sure that the company is one that can be trusted. Make sure that all employees have received the required level of training. As mentioned earlier, this is actually a requirement as per the Department of Transportation. Aside from this, you should check they have the required licenses with the Department of Transportation, Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the EPA; depending on the goods they transport. You will also need to make sure they have workers compensation insurance and business liability insurance, as well as checking financial references.

Need Help Shipping Hazardous Materials?

If you need help shipping hazardous materials, you have certainly come to the right place. At R&L Global Logistics, we have many years of experience in the industry and we can ensure your freight reaches its destination without issue. Our expansive network of trusted carriers and providers ensures that we can find the right match for shipping your hazardous materials. Whether it’s a shipment within the state or across the country, we’ll help you get the job done.

We understand logistics inside and out. From California freight shipping restrictions to shipping alcohol in bulk quanties, we are ready to be your strategic partner.

Our comprehensive 3PL services provide you with additional support beyond just the transportation of your freight. Our 3PL services include:

If you have any questions or are ready to get started, you can reach us at (866) 353-7178 or click get a quote below. We’re standing by and ready to handle hazardous freight shipping needs.

Work with the safest hazmat carriers on the road today. 
Our record speaks for itself. 
Book freight today.

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