Hazmat Material Shipments

According to the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT), a hazardous material is "A substance or material, including a hazardous substance, which has been determined by the Secretary of Transportation to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety and property when transported in commerce, and which has been so designated." In layman’s terms, this means any material that, because of its properties, may cause injury, loss of life, damage to property or the environment if involved in an accident during transportation. A minor transportation accident can quickly escalate into a major catastrophe when hazardous materials are involved.


Who provides and enforces these regulations?


There are currently two sets of regulations covering the shipping of hazardous materials. 


International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) regulations pertains to international shipments and are enforced by the "competent authorities" of the countries who have adopted these regulations.


Code of Federal Regulations (CFR-49) regulations are governed by the DOT and pertain mainly to domestic shipments. They will reference international regulations when shipping by ocean and/or air. 49 CFR is enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration, United States Coast Guard, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration


The two sets of regulations are very similar in documentation, labeling, marking, and placarding requirements. However, some differences do exist. Whenever these regulations conflict, the more stringent of the two must be adhered to.


Who is responsible for complying to the Hazardous Material Regulations?


The shipper or their agent is responsible for having their Hazardous Material cargo in compliance with all the regulations at the time the cargo is offered for transportation (at the time of pick up from the shipper’s facilities, or at the time of delivery to the carrier’s terminal). The carrier’s (highway, ocean, rail, air) responsibility is to determine that the shipper has, in fact, complied with the regulations before the carrier transports the cargo. A signed "shipper’s certification" statement is required.