Tag Archives: hazardous materials shipping

What are Hazardous Materials and How To Ship Them

Hazardous materials are essential supplies for our everyday life. From cosmetics and household goods to chemicals, oil, and batteries, the hazmat category is a separate segment of freight which requires strict regulatory compliance and safety measures. Shipping hazardous materials is a complicated and responsible task, where the price of error is extremely high. 

What is hazmat and hazardous materials?

Any items of substance that possess danger to humans, animals, or the environment, either by themselves or under the influence of certain factors, are classified as hazardous materials. Essentially, hazmat handlers, carriers and distributors hold responsibility for complying with rules and regulations on hazmat shipping.

DOT hazard class and materials table

The Department of Transportation has specific rules and requirements for shipping hazardous materials, including hazmat classification. DOT defines 9 different classes of dangerous goods, and each of those has sub-classifications and handling instructions. 

How many hazard classes are there?

According to DOT, there are 9 classes of hazardous materials. 

Hazard Class  Type of Materials Description 
1 Explosives 1.1 Mass explosion hazard

1.2 Projectile hazard

1.3 Minor blast/projectile/fire

1.4 Minor blast

1.5 Insensitive explosives

1.6 Very insensitive explosives

2 Compressed gases 2.1 Flammable gases

2.2 Nonflammable compressed

2.3 Poisonous

3 Inflammable liquids Flammable (flash point below 141°)

Combustible (flash point 141°-200°)

4 Inflammable solids 4.1 Flammable solids

4.2 Spontaneously combustible

4.3 Dangerous when wet

5 Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides 5.1 Oxidizer

5.2 Organic Peroxide

6 Toxic Materials 6.1 Poisonous material

6.2 Infectious Agents

7 Radioactive Material Any type of ionizing radioactive materials
8 Corrosive Material A material that causes damage or destruction of human skin or results in severe corrosion on steel
9 Miscellaneous A material that is dangerous but doesn’t fall under any of the above freight classifications

How to ship hazardous materials?

Before turning to any carriers for shipping hazmat, make sure they have proper certifications and permits. In the United States, all the processes for keeping and moving dangerous goods are regulated by 49 CFR. It is a Code of Federal Regulations, a governmental law that regulates domestic transportation of hazardous materials. Anyone who handles this kind of transportation needs to thoroughly know 49 CFR in order to comply. This document includes all the instructions for handling and transporting dangerous goods. 

Hazmat Shipping With PLS Logistics

At PLS, we will work with you to learn the hazmat transportation requirements of your freight and help you comply with the regulations.

Learn more about our Hazmat Shipping services!

Understanding Hazmat Shipping

As hazardous materials and wastes become more common, it is more important now than ever to understand what they are, what are the risks, and how to ship them.

Any company working with hazardous materials must understand the nature of these materials and how to safely ship them. There are complicated processes and potentially lethal risks involved – so it’s important to know your stuff.

iStock-182418467.jpgWhat are Hazardous Materials?

A hazardous material, also known as a hazmat, is a substance is “capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce and has been designated as hazardous under the federal hazardous materials transportation law” according to the Secretary of Transportation.

This definition includes hazardous wastes, substances, elevated temperature materials, and other materials determined as hazardous.

Some examples of hazmats are:

  • Fireworks
  • Gasoline (flammable or not)
  • Explosives
  • Dangerous when wet material
  • Poisonous material
  • Lithium batteries
  • Dry ice

It’s important to note that not all hazmats are created equal. Some, like Class 9 commodities (think household items) don’t require the transport vehicle to be placarded for domestic transport.

Once you’ve defined if your goods are considered hazmats, it’s crucial to have a hazmat plan in place. This plan will help when adjusting to government regulations (think the Samsung Note 7 battery controversy) and limit risks and liability.

Shipping hazardous materials can be a risky task. Understand the risks:

Manufacturer/Shipper Risks

  • Primary risks when transporting hazmats is the potential for personal injury and property damage due to mishandling
  • Regulatory risks – potential civil penalties by the US DOT
  • Individual state violations
  • Potential other government agency penalties such as OSHA or EPA
  • Potential for negative public opinion

Carrier Risks

· Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) points are the biggest risk

Truck Owner-Operator & Driver Risks

  • The same financial risks as shippers/carriers
  • Potential for suspension

General Public Risks

  • If near an accident involving the shipping of hazardous materials
  • Environmental risks
  • Potential health side effects for affected area

With all these potential risks when shipping hazmats, it’s important to find a qualified carrier who is aware of the regulations involved in shipping this material. At PLS, we mitigate this task for you and qualify carriers in house to ensure your hazmat shipment needs can be accommodated.

When evaluating carriers to work with, here are a few questions to keep in mind:

  • Is this carrier registered and permitted to transport hazmat?
  • Are they financially capable?
  • Is the company properly insured?
  • Do the employees have a solid understanding of which classes of hazmats they’re able to transport?
  • Does the company have dedicated and experienced personnel?

Keeping these 5 things in mind when selecting a carrier can significantly reduce the potential risk and liability of your company.


Interested in learning more about hazmat shipping? Read these articles next: Hazardous Materials Transportation FAQs, 7 Facts about Hazardous Freight Shipping, Infographic: Fireworks and Hazardous Materials


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7 Facts about Hazardous Freight Shipping

  1. Hazardous materials are substances that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has determined are capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety or property when transported.
  2. There is an assortment of items that can be listed as dangerous: batteries, lithium tanks, magnets, dry ice, bleach, and perfume. There are 9 classes of dangerous materials:
    • Explosives
    • Gasses
    • Flammable liquids
    • Flammable solids
    • Oxidizing substances
    • Toxic and infectious substances
    • Radioactive material
    • Corrosives
    • Misc.
  3. Hazardous materials regulations are in Subtitle B, Chapter 1 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 49, set by DOT. It lists more than 3,600 items as dangerous goods.
  4. According to a DOT report, about 2.6 billion tons of hazardous materials were shipped in 2012. About 60% moved by truck, 24% by pipeline, 11% by water and 4% by rail.
  5. To safely ship hazardous materials, employees need to understand effective processes and compliance rules. There are penalties for violating applicable regulations. Some of the major responsibilities of hazmat shippers include identifying the hazardous product, its class, and division, creating a warning label, and packaging the product properly.
  6. Inbound Logistics reports that more changes to battery shipping are coming, as the US must align with ICAO rules in early 2017. The ICAO will implement new lithium battery markings in 2017, and create new requirements to mark packages containing batteries in equipment when more than two packages are in the shipment. (Read: Product Recalls Disrupting Your Supply Chain)
  7. Drivers should be trained to carry hazardous materials. Transport Topics reports that a driver should understand the bill of lading when picking up a hazardous shipment, understand the type of hazard and the level of danger associated with the freight.



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