Hazmat Freight Transportation

Transporting Hazardous Materials (Hazmat Transportation)

Hazardous material is any product which contains solid or liquid goods that can be potentially dangerous for humans, animals or the environment.

What are Hazardous Materials?

Hazardous materials (hazmat) are any products which contain solid or liquid goods that can be potentially dangerous for humans, animals or the environment.

In transportation, hazmat items are classified by different class and packing groups. The information will depend on the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) placard, or the United Nations (UN) number, which are the digits identifying what type of dangerous goods (such as explosives, flammable liquids, toxic substances, etc.) are being transported. This UN number, along with the hazmat class and packing group, will provide carriers with a clear idea of how they must handle every hazmat item.  It is very important that this information is noted on the paperwork and the bill of lading (BOL) that shippers provide to the drivers / carriers upon pick up of an item. 

Note: Hazardous materials always travel with a Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS – it is a good idea to attach to both the freight itself and to the Bill of Lading.  Of importance are Sections 14 (Transportation) and 7 (Handling and Storage).

The US DOT divides hazardous materials into 9 major hazard classes. The first 3 classes below are the most commonly used and transported.

Class 1: Explosives.

Class 2: Gases.

Class 3: Flammable/Combustible Liquids.

Class 4: Flammable Solids.

Class 5: Oxidizers/Organic Peroxides.

Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances.

Class 7: Radioactive Materials.

Class 8: Corrosive Materials.

Class 9: Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials.

The packing group represents the degree of danger presented.

Packing Group l: Great danger

Packing Group ll: Medium danger

Packing Group lll: Minor danger

What do Safety and Hazmat Transportation Have to do with One Another?  

“Safety is First” when moving hazmat loads of course.  Transporting hazardous materials can be accomplished without issues when the correct packaging and equipment are used, the correct product information is declared, and all the procedures that regulate the transportation of the hazmat product are followed. All paperwork provided by shippers, besides having the necessary information about UN numbers, must contain a good emergency number the carrier can call in case anything happens. 

Note: Any carrier can refuse to move the load if all the required information noted above is not provided.

Most important to hazmat trucking companies is the protection of humans and the environment.  They usually have to put placards on the outside of their truck which declare the Class of hazardous material they have inside. Further, the driver has to be Hazmat Certified and the Hazmat Endorsement should be on the driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL).  If all the proper safety steps are followed and all people in the supply chain are properly trained and certified, transporting hazardous materials can be done safely and with no extra delay to your shipment.

The Best Hazmat Trucking Companies

We cannot say that one particular carrier is better than the other on ALL hazmat loads.   Even the best carriers often perform terribly between certain terminals and with each shipment there are different factors and circumstances. But we can advise based on a general review of how most hazmat trucking companies handle transporting hazardous materials.  We recommend you try different hazmat carriers, choose your hazmat carrier from the list below, and see which ones are best and have the best availability in your area.

Choose your Hazmat Carrier

These hazmat carriers have generally met our customers’ expectations in the past when moving hazardous materials

  • R & L carriers
  • XPO logistics
  • Estes Express
  • ABF Freight
  • Old Dominion (good moving hazmat but will not move the ones that belong to hazmat class 1 /explosives)
  • Saia
  • NEMF
  • New Penn

5 Tips for Shipping Hazmat

  1. Read the MSDS – the Material Safety Data Sheet – especially Section 14 for Transportation. Make copies and put into sleeves on every skid of your shipment.
  2. Extra heavy-duty packaging and protection are necessary when moving hazardous materials. If your shipment leaks you may be held responsible, and you may be responsible even if your shipment is in an accident.
  3. Make sure the dispatcher sends you a hazmat certified driver. Protect your company by inspecting his CDL for the hazmat endorsement and make a copy of it. Make sure the driver placards the truck with the proper Class of your hazmat freight and provide the driver with a MSDS.
  4. Add a 24/7 telephone number onto the Bill of Lading for any emergency issues.
  5. Call ahead to your customer or receiver and make sure to email them an MSDS and point out Section 7 Handling and Storage. Make sure they have a safe way to remove your freight from the truck.