Check the Box: Frequently Asked Questions
Hazmat is a substance that can pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce. The term includes a broad array of materials sorted into hazard classes and divisions by hazard type.
Hazmat can pose a significant safety risk while in transportation. DOT has carefully designed specific packaging, marking, and labeling requirements to ensure proper handling and safe transport. These requirements can vary between different hazard classifications, so it is imperative to first correctly identify the hazard posed by the material you plan to ship.
Hazmat transportation requirements are tailored to the risks presented by each material. You need to know what you are shipping before you can properly contain the hazmat and communicate its risk.
Often, the best way to obtain the correct hazard classification of a consumer product is by locating the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) from the manufacturer. The DOT hazmat regulations provide classification criteria that manufacturers, shippers, and others can use to classify hazardous material. Certain types of hazmat require PHMSA’s approval of the classification determination prior to shipment (e.g., explosives).
Depending on the type of hazmat, quantities in a package, or mode of transportation, there are many exceptions to certain hazmat transportation regulations. Consumer products may qualify for exceptions from hazmat transportation regulations. If you need help identifying an exception in the regulations, be sure to contact the Hazardous Materials Information Center. The Hazardous Materials Information Center is available by telephone (1-800-467-4922 or 202-366-4488) Monday through Friday from 9 am – 5 pm EST or anytime by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Hazmat employees who prepare hazmat for transportation or perform other regulated functions are required to be trained. The DOT defines a hazmat employee to mean:
- A person who is:
- Employed on a full-time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer and who in the course of such full time, part time or temporary employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;
- Self-employed (including an owner-operator of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft) transporting hazardous materials in commerce who in the course of such self-employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;
- A railroad signalman; or
- A railroad maintenance-of-way employee.
- This term includes an individual, employed on a full time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer, or who is self-employed, who during the course of employment:
- Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials;
- Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.
- Prepares hazardous materials for transportation;
- Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials;
- Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.
Training is relatively easy to obtain. There are many third-party trainers that provide hazmat transportation training services. You can select any trainer that works best for the needs of you or your company. Training can be online or in person. The regulations also permit companies to self-train and certify their employees. To assist with this, DOT offers online training modules to help supplement training programs. Be sure to reference our training brochure for additional information on the hazmat transportation training requirements, including training recordkeeping requirements.
Please note that as a government agency, DOT does not endorse or recommend a specific vendor for training services.
In addition to properly preparing a package with the correct marks and labels, many hazmat packages will require a shipping paper that contains a description of the hazmat, including the UN identification number, proper shipping name, hazard class, packing group, quantity, number and type of packages, emergency contact information, and a shipper’s certification. Additional information may be required, depending on the material to be transported. Be sure to reference our guide to transportation requirements for additional information on preparing shipping papers. Don’t forget to work with your carrier on any specific requirements they may have on the form and format of the shipping documentation that you provide to them!
Packaging materials and markings and labels can be obtained through a variety of commercial sources. Your selected carrier may even have these materials available for purchase.
Please note that as a government agency, DOT does not endorse or recommend a specific vendor.
Emergency response information is information that can be used in the mitigation of an incident involving hazmat. It includes:
- The basic description and technical name of the hazmat
- Immediate hazards to health;
- Risks of fire or explosion;
- Immediate precautions to be taken in the event of an accident or incident;
- Immediate methods for handling fires;
- Initial methods for handling spills or leaks in the absence of fire; and
- Preliminary first aid measures.
This information may be on the SDS or a separate emergency response guidance document like the Emergency Response Guidebook. If your hazmat product requires a shipping paper, you are also responsible for providing emergency response information.
An emergency response telephone number is an important component of emergency response information. Emergency response telephone numbers must be the telephone number of a person who can provide comprehensive emergency response and incident mitigation information for the product being shipped and must be monitored at all times hazmat is in transportation. Shippers can contract with a third-party emergency response provider, if needed, to meet these requirements.
Please note that as a government agency, DOT does not endorse or recommend a specific emergency response provider.
Shippers may be required to provide a copy of their shipping paper upon request to an authorized official of a Federal, State, or local government. Shippers must retain a physical or electronic copy of their shipping paper for a period of 2 years after acceptance of the hazmat by the carrier. For hazardous waste manifests, shippers must retain the copy for a period of 3 years after acceptance of the hazardous wastes by the carrier.
There can be serious civil and even criminal penalties for not complying with the hazmat transportation regulations. DOT aims to make compliance information readily available, clear, and understandable. We all need to do our part to protect people from hazardous materials accidents and incidents. Remember, you can always contact DOT’s Hazardous Materials Information Center, available by telephone (1-800-467-4922 or 202-366-4488) Monday through Friday from 9 am – 5 pm EST, or anytime by e-mail (email@example.com) for any compliance assistance questions. The Hazardous Materials Information Center exists to promote compliance and does not report to enforcement branches.