Knowing the Rules and Risks for Transporting Hazardous Materials

Posted by Land Link on Aug 2, 2017 8:52:18 AM

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 1.29.53 PM.jpgWhen shipping hazardous materials of any type company representatives must have a strong understanding of the products they are attempting to ship and the federal requirements that govern the domestic and international transportation of hazardous material. The DOT defines a hazardous material as any item or chemical which, when being transported or moved in commerce, is a risk to public safety or the environment, and is regulated as such under its Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations as outlined in 49 CFR 100-199.  Regulations for the transport of hazardous materials are comprehensive and somewhat complex.  Maintaining a strong understanding of these regulations and potential pitfalls of hazmat transportation is critical to the safe and successful handling and delivery of your product and protection of your brand.  There is an old saying "The only bad press is your obituary".  This may not apply in the transportation of your products.  Front page news of a hazmat breach while in transit could very well be the obituary for your brand.  Just ask Exxon about a little oil spill in Alaska. 

Understanding Direct Risk to Shippers and Contingent Liability for Manufacturers 

In 1990, Congress enacted the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act to clarify the maze of conflicting state, local, and federal regulations.  The HMTUSA requires the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations for the safe transport of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce. The Secretary also retains authority to designate materials as hazardous when they pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, or property.

Companies which are engaged in the transportation of hazardous material should have a defined hazmat packaging and transportation program insuring that the company or hired carriers maintain current hazmat authority and appropriate insurance, confirming those drivers have hazmat endorsements, and provide training for employees who have access to any part of the hazardous material.  Knowing the rules for hazmat transportation and packaging requirements is the first line of defense for your company's reputation.  Clearly identify the type and classification of your product line which are considered hazardous and fully understand the packing requirements associated with each product.

Hazardous Materials Classifications and Packing Groups

Hazard classes separate material by the type of risk a hazard they may pose.  Some materials meet the definition of more than one hazard class with primary risks and subsidiary risks. When deciding on packaging requirements it is a good practice to meet the requirements of the most hazardous class your material may fit.  The chart below provides a general summary of hazardous classes.  Before shipping any hazmat material click here to refer to CFR 49 171 - 180 for specific requirements.

Class 1 – Explosives

Class 2 – Gases

Class 3 – Flammable and Combustible Liquids

Class 4– Flammable Solids; Spontaneously Combustible Materials;

             Dangerous when Wet Materials.

Class 5 —  Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides

Class 6 — Toxic Materials and Infectious Substances

Class 7 —  Radioactive Materials

Class 8 —   Corrosive Materials

Class 9 —   Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

Packing groups indicate the degree of risk a hazardous material may pose in transit.  A can of paint, for example, must be able to withstand a free fall from 48 inches without spilling open.  The more potentially dangerous the material to humans and the environment the more restrictive is the packaging requirements.  For detailed packaging requirements refer to CFR 49-173.

Packing Group I – High danger

Packing Group II – Moderate danger

Packing Group III – Low danger

Packing groups are always represented by Roman Numerals and determine the type of packaging required for the materials as well as quantity limits allowed on aircraft. 

For advice and guidance in the safe, successful and legal transportation of your hazardous products please contact Land Link Traffic Systems today or visit us online @

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