The Best Risk Mitigation Strategies For Transporting Hazmat Materials

By GoCanvas Team on February 22, 2023

Transporting hazardous materials means meeting strict safety standards and regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and OSHA. Safely transporting hazmat materials includes preventing accidents that could cause devastating injuries to the driver of the truck, as well as others around that driver on the road. 

What is Hazardous Material Compliance?

Hazardous material compliance is the process of ensuring that all hazardous materials are safely handled during the transportation process. In order to safely ship hazardous materials, carriers may need to meet specific safety goals and requirements. The FMCSA uses hazardous material compliance as one of the key factors in ranking carriers when it comes to potential safety problems. 

6 Steps to Compliance When Preparing Hazmat Materials for Transport

In order to meet compliance regulations for properly transporting hazardous materials, you need to follow six important steps. 

1. Classify the Hazardous Material

Look up the material you intend to ship on the DOT Hazmat Table. This table will provide a number of essential details about the hazardous material, including:

  • Label codes
  • Packaging requirements
  • Quantity limitations
  • Any special provisions or exceptions regarding the transportation of that particular hazardous material

Properly classifying the hazardous material is an essential first step in safely transporting that item. This is because classification impacts how you package, label, and document the shipment

2. Determine Quantities

Look at how much of that specific material you will be shipping. This data lets you know what type of packaging is required for that material. Keep in mind that you may need to use specific markings on the package that designate what it is and the quantity. 

3. Package the Material

Pay careful attention to the packaging requirements laid out for that specific hazardous material. You may have to use performance packaging designed to keep that material as safe and contained as possible. 

4. Use Appropriate Markings

Hazardous material markings help designate what is in the package and any specific directions related to moving it. For example, it may note that the contents are flammable, that they should be kept away from heat, or that there is a significant danger if the substance is inhaled. Markings may also designate the appropriate package orientation or information about the quantity expected in that package. 

5. Prepare Shipping Documents

Pay attention to the specific requirements of the material you intend to ship. You may be required to have initial shipping documents for hazardous materials, so make sure you understand the requirements upfront. 

6. Contact Your Preferred Carrier

Make sure your carrier is aware of what you are shipping and any anticipated timeline. Check in with your carrier about any additional requirements for shipping this specific hazardous material, since some carriers may have their own safety requirements.

Where Can You Find Regulatory Guidance for Shipping Hazmat?

Shipping hazardous materials can be a complicated process. At work, when the material is not in transit, OSHA regulations may govern the storage and handling of hazardous materials. OSHA does require a certain level of training in order to ensure that carriers and other employees can handle those hazardous materials safely. However, the FMCSA typically sets the regulations required for safely moving hazardous material, including both shipper responsibilities like packaging, marking, and employee training, and carrier responsibilities like loading and unloading, incident reporting, and marking the vehicle. 

How To Reduce Security Risk When Transporting Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials often require a higher level of security than other shipments. Many of those materials could pose a substantial danger to others or to the environment if inadvertently spilled, broken into, or stolen. During transport, carriers may need to take additional steps to protect their cargo, especially when it meets the requirements set out by the US Department of Transportation.

Security requirements may include:

  • Reducing unauthorized access. Restricting available information about the facility or the individuals transporting hazardous goods can help prevent others from accessing it. 
  • Using tamper-resistant seals and locks on cargo.
  • Verifying the identity of both the carrier and the recipient of the cargo so that it is clear that hazardous materials have gone to the right place. 
  • Identifying the route that the driver should take, including acceptable deviations due to challenges faced along the route. 
  • Minimizing exposure to populated areas during the drive.
  • Avoiding tunnels and bridges.
  • Minimizing stops. In some cases, carriers may want to use two drivers or driver relays to minimize the number of stops required during a trip, particularly overnight stops. 
  • Using secure facilities for storage, including overnight storage. 
  • Using technology to track the movement of hazardous packages during shipping. 

In addition, some hazardous material shipments may benefit from having a guard to help protect the shipment and ensure that it reaches its destination safely. 

What is the Most Common Hazmat Threat?

Transporting hazardous materials brings with it a number of potential dangers. Mishandling hazardous materials is one of the most serious threats. Not only can improper packaging increase the risk of a leak or spill, but it may also increase the risks to first responders in an accident scenario. Carriers may need to go through specific training geared toward transporting hazardous materials safely. By making sure to properly label and package hazardous materials, shippers can decrease the odds of a dangerous incident.

What is a Must When Transporting Hazardous Materials?

Meeting regulatory standards is the biggest concern when transporting hazardous materials. Errors in labeling or documentation are among the most common challenges that result in shipments being returned to the sender. Failing to understand necessary packaging requirements may also mean that hazardous materials get shipped without proper labeling or marking, which can increase the danger to others. By taking the time to understand Hazmat regulations, both shippers and carriers can ensure a higher degree of safety for everyone involved. 

Shippers who regularly need to transport hazardous materials should pay careful attention to shipping regulations, By carefully following those regulations, they can help ensure the security of those items, protect themselves, and increase the odds that those materials will reach their destination in a timely manner.