Hazardous Materials vrs. Dangerous Goods


Many times in transportation we hear the terms hazardous materials and dangerous goods. In hauling goods we should know what these terms really mean.

What are hazardous materials?

Hazardous materials is a term used by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Hazardous materials (sometimes called hazmat, for short) means a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce, and has designated as hazardous under Section 5103 of Federal hazardous materials transportation law (49 U.S.C. 5103). The term includes hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, elevated temperature materials, materials designated as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Table (see CFR 172.101), and materials that meet the defining criteria for hazard classes and divisions in Part 173 of Subchapter C of this chapter.

What are dangerous goods?

“Dangerous Goods” is an international term used by aviation organizations: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA defines dangerous goods as articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property or the environment and which are shown in the list of dangerous goods in these regulations or which are classified according to the Regulations.

A Hazmat Employee is an individual who “directly” affects hazardous material transportation safety. Examples of hazmat employees include:

  • Individuals who prepare hazmat shipments (including classifying, packaging, marking, labeling, and documenting)
  • Individuals arranging hazardous materials shipments that are prepared by contractors
  • Medical Personnel
  • Radiation Safety Officers
  • Material handlers who load and unload hazardous materials
  • Truck drivers
  • Individual filling containers
  • Packers
  • Documentation clerks
  • Engineers or technicians that use FedEx or other carriers from field locations
  • Field engineers
  • Administrative assistants assisting with paper work
  • Individuals that design, fabricate, recondition, or test certified packaging

Driver Requirements

Drivers need a Group A or B CDL with a hazardous materials endorsement to haul hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding. If the vehicle is small, a Group C CDL is required.

“H” — HAZARDOUS MATERIALS: To carry hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding (includes small trucks, pickup trucks and passenger vehicles)

“X” — An X Endorsement will appear on the license instead of the H and N codes when an applicant receives both the tanker and hazardous materials’ endorsements.

Training: Periodic hazmat training is required for all hazmat employees, including drivers. (49 CFR §177.800 (c) Responsibility for training. A carrier may not transport a hazardous material by motor vehicle unless each of its hazmat employees involved in that transportation is trained as required by this part and subpart H of part 172 of this subchapter.)

Training Elements

  • General Awareness
  • Function Specific
  • Safety Training
  • Security Training (General Awareness and/or In-Depth depending on the type and quantity of materials shipped)

When is training required?

  • By DOT regulations, after a change in job function, after a regulation change and every three years. (Employees may perform functions for up to 90 days if under direct supervision of a trained employee)
  • By ICAO/IATA requirements, training is required before performing a regulated job function and every two years.
  • Under 49 CFR §177.816 (c) The training required by paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section (specific driver’s requirements) may be satisfied by compliance with the current requirements for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a tank vehicle or hazardous materials endorsement.

For any placardable amount of hazardous materials, intrastate or interstate, the shipper or transporter must register with the U.S. DOT/RSPA. Registration information can be obtained by calling 202-366-4109. States may have additional requirements, depending on the nature of what is being hauled.

Shipping Paper” is a document used to identify hazardous materials during transport. With few exceptions (see Material of Trade), shipping papers must accompany all shipments, even if the materials are for your own use.

Know that certain routes may be restricted or prohibited to shipments of flammable liquids or explosive materials or other types of hazmat. Michigan law (Section 257.669) requires any vehicle that is marked or placarded to stop prior to crossing a railroad grade.

Any handler of hazardous materials knows how complex regulations for hazmat shipments can be. Protect yourself by knowing the restrictions and regulations for shipping or hauling hazmat or dangerous goods.



Labelmaster put together an infographic of 2015 regulatory changes here.



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