Are You Properly Managing Your Hazmat Freight?

hazmat freight

It is estimated that every day across the United States, more than 800,000 hazardous material shipments are moved. Not only does this introduce a significant safety concern, but with growing threats of terrorism and other security issues, carriers across the US are increasingly being challenged by federal agencies and customers to properly manage their hazmat freight operations. 

All shippers and carriers from LTL to the parcel industry must place an emphasis on correctly packaging, documenting, and moving any commodity that has been classified as hazardous materials by the United States Department of Transportation. Since our global supply chain continues to depend on the safe movement of hazardous materials, a series of procedures ranging from document control to correct placarding on transportation vehicles have been set by the USDOT

In the information below, we all outline the facts about hazardous material shipping, including explaining the different classification types and provide a general outline of carrier responsibilities. 


What are Hazardous Materials?

According to the United States Department of Transportation, “Hazardous materials (hazmat) are any products which contain solid or liquid goods that can be potentially dangerous for humans, animals or the environment.”

Within the transportation industry, hazardous materials are classified into unique packing groups and classes. The United Nations has also joined the hazmat classification process by assigning a number *(UN Number) that identifies a product or material with its class and packing group. 

This important information is the baseline that educates shippers and carriers as to the regulations required for legally transporting hazmat freight across the United States, and United Nations countries.  

There are 9 major hazardous classes as notated by the USDOT. With each hazmat class comes different regulations and procedures. These must be followed by the shipper, carrier, or shipping agent (3PL). one item that all hazardous materials have in common is a material safety data sheet or MSDS. the MSDS must be included with the freight and the bill of lading, regardless of the hazmat class. 


The nine items listed below are the classes of hazardous materials. 

1: Explosives.

2: Gases.

3: Flammable/Combustible Liquids.

4: Flammable Solids.

5: Oxidizers/Organic Peroxides.

6: Toxic and Infectious Substances.

7: Radioactive Materials.

8: Corrosive Materials.

9: Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials.


Of the nine classes posted above, the top three including Explosives, Gases, and Flammable/Combustible Liquids are the most common and represent the biggest opportunity for safety and security concerns. In fact, they belong with Packing Group 1 – or those that pose Great Danger. Additional classes fall into Packing Group II (Medium Danger) or Packing Group III (Minor Danger). 


Carriers Responsibilities When Transporting Hazmat Freight

Every carrier has their own policies directed at shippers with regard to the documentation and processes involved in hazmat freight shipping. However, the carriers are the ones responsible for the majority of the transport. They must always keep accurate documentation, follow very specific loading and unloading procedures, and oversee the entire movement of hazardous materials once the wheels touch the ground! 


Shipping Documentation

All carriers must have redundant copies of hazardous material shipping documentation. These are included with the Bill of Lading (BOL) and contained on at least (1) package or pallet of hazardous materials. 


Placard and Marking of Transportation Vehicles

Depending on the hazmat class and packing group, carriers must assign or attach hazardous materials placards on the transportation container or vehicle that are relevant to the type of hazmat moved.


Loading and Unloading

All hazmat carriers are required to train employees on the correct loading and unloading processes for hazmat packages. Many types of hazmat freight require very specific loading and unloading procedures. Overall, these procedures are in place to potentially save your life or the lives of others, do not ignore them. Just one wrong move could mean a life-threatening leak of hazardous materials.



Not all hazardous materials can be moved in the same container or within the same vehicle. In fact, each classification and packaging group has its own compatibility with other classes and packaging groups. Lastly, it's the sole responsibility of the carrier, not the shipper, to follow these guidelines without fault. 


Blocking and Bracing

This falls into the loading and unloading segment but is itself an individual carrier responsibility. Furthermore, depending on the hazardous classification or packing group, different hazmat shipments require specific blocking embracing procedures. 


Incident Reporting

It is also solely on the responsibility of a carrier to complete accurate and honest incident reporting. Each class and packing group has its own incident reporting procedures. 


Security Planning

The main concern of government regulatory agencies is the potential of a hazardous material spill or theft. When talking about hazardous materials, this theft could lead to a catastrophic event such as a terrorist attack.

Each carrier must have a documented security plan in order to receive approval to move any hazmat freight.


Employee Training

As noted above, each hazmat class and packing group has its own handling and documentation procedures. Furthermore, these procedures must be passed along to any and all employees who handle these materials, may come in contact with them or are responsible for its transportation.



Final Thoughts

There is a reason why hazardous material shipping is a premium charge for many carriers. Failure to comply with any of the above regulations can lead to significant financial penalties. Even worse, it can potentially lead to loss of USDOT licensing for professional carriers.

If you are a shipper or carrier who would like to learn more about the specific requirements for hazmat shipping, reach out to the team at Redwood Logistics today.