Reviewed March 2011
of Hazardous Materials Transportation in Commerce
Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) specify requirements for the safe
transportation of hazardous materials in commerce by rail car, aircraft, vessel, and motor
vehicle. These comprehensive regulations govern transportation-related activities by
offerors (e.g., shippers, brokers, forwarding agents, freight forwarders, and
warehousers); carriers (i.e., common, contract, and private); packaging manufacturers,
reconditioners, testers, and retesters; and independent inspection agencies. The HMR apply
to each person who performs, or causes to be performed, functions related to the
transportation of hazardous materials such as determination of, and compliance with, basic
conditions for offering; filling packages; marking and labeling packages; preparing
shipping papers; handling, loading, securing and segregating packages within a transport
vehicle, freight container or cargo hold; and transporting hazardous materials.
general, the HMR prescribe requirements for classification, packaging, hazard
communication, incident reporting, handling and transportation of hazardous materials. The
HMR are enforced by RSPA and DOT's modal administrations: the FAA, the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the United States
Coast Guard (USCG). Federal law provides for civil penalties of not more than $25,000 and
not less than $250 for each violation. An individual who willfully violates a provision of
the HMR may be fined, under Title 18 U.S.C., up to $250,000, be imprisoned for not more
than 5 years, or both; a business entity may be fined up to $500,000.
information presented in this document highlights some of the requirements of the HMR
which can affect transportation safety, but does not address many of the specific
provisions and exceptions contained in the HMR. This advisory notice is intended to
provide general guidance. It should not be used as a substitute for the HMR to
II. Basic Requirements
terms ``hazmat employee'' and ``hazmat employer'' are defined in detail in 49 CFR 171.8.
Stated briefly, a hazmat employee is anyone who directly affects hazardous
materials transportation safety, and a hazmat employer is anyone who uses
employees in connection with transporting hazardous materials in commerce, causing
hazardous materials to be transported, or manufacturing or offering packagings as
authorized for use in transportation of hazardous materials.
any hazmat employee performs a function subject to the HMR, that person must be provided
initial training in the performance of that function. Also, if a new regulation is
adopted, or an existing regulation is changed that relates to a function performed by a
hazmat employee, that hazmat employee first must be instructed in those new or revised
function-specific requirements. For example, if a new requirement is added to the shipping
paper requirements, a hazmat employee must be instructed regarding the new requirement
prior to performance of a function affected by the new or revised rule. As an interim
measure, a hazmat employee may perform a required function under the direct supervision of
a properly trained and knowledgeable hazmat employee for a period of 90 days, or until the
required training is provided, whichever comes first.
hazmat employee must be initially trained, and periodically retrained at least every
three years (previously two years; see final rule under Docket HM-222B; 61 FR 27166,
May 30, 1996) in three areas: General awareness/ familiarization training designed to
provide familiarity with requirements of the HMR and to enable the employee to recognize
and identify hazardous materials; function-specific training concerning requirements of
the HMR which are specifically applicable to the functions the employee performs; and
safety training concerning emergency response information, measures to protect the
employee from the hazards posed by materials, and methods and procedures for avoiding
employers are responsible for training. Each hazmat employee must be trained and tested,
and the employer must keep a record of training to include certification of training and
testing, date of training, a description of the training material, and the name and
address of the person providing the training.
stresses the importance of hazmat employer compliance with the hazmat employee training
requirement. Effective training of hazmat employees reduces the potential for incidents
and accidents and is essential for the protection of people (employees, passengers,
emergency response personnel, and the general public), property, and the environment. See
Subpart H (Training) of Part 172 for detailed requirements.
B. Classification and Identification of Hazardous Materials.
HMR set forth the procedures and criteria for determining the hazard class (see
Sec. 173.2) and the proper shipping name (see Sec. 172.101) for hazardous
materials. Some materials are so hazardous that they are specifically designated as ``forbidden''
in the Hazardous Materials Table in Sec. 172.101 (the Table) and may not be offered for
transportation or transported in commerce. Some require special review and approval.
Others are designated as ``forbidden'' from transportation by specific modes, such as air
transportation. Section 173.21 extends the ``forbidden'' designation beyond those
materials listed by name in the Table to additional general categories, including
materials (other than materials classed as explosives) that will detonate in a fire;
combinations of materials that are likely to cause a dangerous evolution of heat, create
flammable or poisonous gases or vapors, or produce corrosive materials; and packages that
give off a flammable gas or vapor likely to create a flammable mixture with air in a
transport vehicle. In the May 24, 1996 interim final rule, RSPA added a provision to Sec.
173.21 to temporarily prohibit the transportation of oxygen generators (chemical) as cargo
in passenger aircraft.
Table lists, by name, several thousand of the most commonly transported hazardous
materials. Tens of thousands of other hazardous materials that pose similar hazards as
specifically listed materials are addressed by generic descriptions like ``flammable
liquids, n.o.s.'' (``n.o.s.'' means not otherwise specified).
Table is a key element and primary guide to offerors, carriers, and enforcement personnel
in determining compliance with the regulations. For each entry, the Table specifies the
proper shipping name, hazard class or division, identification number, packing group,
required hazard warning labels, packaging authorizations, per-package quantity limitations
for passenger and cargo aircraft, and special provisions.
C. Protective Packaging
packaging required for a hazardous material is the first line of defense in ensuring that
the material is not released during transportation. An inadequately packaged hazardous
material may not be offered for transportation, accepted or transported.
the HMR specify various performance levels for packagings for hazardous materials, based
on the nature and level of hazards posed by the specific material to be packaged therein.
All packagings must be designed to ensure that under normal conditions of transportation
there will be no release of the contents, and that the effectiveness of the packaging will
not be substantially reduced by temperature changes. Packagings used to transport liquids
by aircraft must be able to withstand significant changes in ambient pressure. In the case
of combination packagings, the inner packagings containing a liquid must be packed so that
the closures are properly installed and tight, are upright, and the outer packaging must
be marked to show the proper orientation. All inner packagings must be adequately secured
and cushioned within the outer packaging to prevent breakage or leakage and to control
their movement within the outer packaging under conditions normally incident to
transportation. Substances that may react dangerously with each other may not be placed
within the same package.
Subpart B (Preparation of Hazardous Materials for Transportation) of Part 173 for general
D. Hazard Communication
elements of hazard warning information are required to be communicated through shipping
documents, package markings and labels, placards on transport vehicles and bulk
packagings, written emergency response information, and emergency response telephone
numbers to be used in the event of an emergency involving the hazardous material.
papers can be in the form of a bill of lading, freight bill, hazardous waste manifest, or
other shipping document. At a minimum, a properly prepared shipping paper clearly
identifies a hazardous material by its proper shipping name, hazard class or division
number, identification number, packing group (if any), and total quantity. Additional
hazard warning and handling information, such as ``POISON'' and ``CARGO AIRCRAFT ONLY,''
must be entered on the shipping paper. This information is intended to enhance safety by
informing hazmat employees of the presence of hazardous materials and prompting them to
ensure that required actions, such as placarding and segregation of incompatible
materials, are accomplished. This same information is used by emergency responders in
responding to incidents and accidents involving hazardous materials.
``shipper's certification'' is a positive endorsement that the offeror is required to
provide when tendering a shipment of hazardous materials to a carrier for transportation.
The person signing the certification must be trained in appropriate areas of the HMR
(e.g., classification, description, packaging, marking, and labeling) pertaining to the
Subpart C (Shipping papers) of Part 172 and related sections for detailed requirements.
markings and labels convey information on packages, such as the proper shipping name,
identification number, and hazard class of a hazardous material. This information readily
identifies that a package contains a hazardous material. It is used by carriers and other
persons to ensure compliance with loading and stowage requirements designed to prevent
potentially dangerous situations that may occur with incompatible hazardous materials, or
to prevent contamination of foodstuffs, feed, or other edible materials. Also, the
information provided by package markings and hazard warning labels can be used by
emergency responders when shipping papers are destroyed or otherwise not immediately
available. Hazardous materials markings must be durable, in English, and unobscured by
other information appearing on the package. Hazard warning labels must conform to size and
color specifications, be placed on the package near the marked proper shipping name, be
clearly visible and be unobscured by other information.
Subparts D (Marking) and E (Labeling) of Part 172 and related sections for detailed
warning placards and identification numbers are displayed on the outside of motor
vehicles, freight containers, and bulk packagings loaded with hazardous materials. They
provide a readily visible warning that hazardous materials are present. The information
they provide can be critical to emergency responders in mitigating the impacts of a
hazardous materials incident or accident. See Subparts D (Marking) and F (Placarding) of
Part 172 and related sections for detailed requirements.
response information and an emergency response telephone number must be provided by the
offeror and maintained by the carrier for use in the mitigation of an accident or incident
involving the hazardous material. The offeror must provide information concerning
immediate hazards to health, risks of fire or explosion, immediate precautions to be taken
in 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.
Furthermore, the shipping paper must contain the emergency response telephone number of a
person who is either knowledgeable of the hazardous material and has comprehensive
emergency response and incident mitigation information for that material, or has immediate
access to a person who possesses such knowledge and information.
required emergency response information provided by the offeror must be immediately
accessible to train crew personnel, drivers of motor vehicles, flight crew members, and
bridge personnel on vessels.
Subpart G (Emergency Response Information) of Part 172 and related sections for detailed
E. Incident Reporting and Modal-Specific Requirements
HMR require carriers to report incidents involving hazardous materials. These incident
reports are maintained by RSPA in its automated Hazardous Materials Information System
(HMIS) database. RSPA uses this information to identify problems, such as inadequate or
improper packagings; operational problems occurring during loading, unloading, or handling
of packages; and inadequate blocking, bracing, or securing of packages within transport
vehicles, freight containers, and cargo holds. When potentially serious problems are
detected, regulatory or enforcement actions may be initiated.
person who discovers a discrepancy relative to the shipment of a hazardous material
following its acceptance for transportation aboard an aircraft is required to notify the
nearest FAA Civil Aviation Security Office, by telephone, as soon as practicable following
discovery. This reporting requirement (see Sec. 175.31) applies to packages which are
found to contain hazardous materials that are: other than as described or certified on
shipping papers; in quantities exceeding authorized limits; in inside containers which are
not authorized or have improper closures; in inside containers not oriented as shown by
package markings; or with insufficient or improper absorption materials, when required.
Also, a telephonic report is required when a package or bag is found to contain a
hazardous material subsequent to its being offered and accepted as other than a hazardous
Secs. 171.15, 171.16, 175.31, 176.48 and related sections for detailed requirements
concerning the reporting of incidents, discrepancies, and other hazardous conditions.
warning labels and package markings are used by carrier personnel and other persons to
ensure that hazardous materials are properly segregated or stowed, when required. For
example, the HMR generally prohibit the loading of Class 8 (corrosive) material above or
adjacent to Division 4.1 (flammable solid) materials or Division 5.1 (oxidizing)
materials. Furthermore, there are modal-specific rules, such as quantity limitation
requirements for transportation by passenger aircraft.
Secs. 173.21, 173.24, 173.24a, 174.81, 175.75, 175.78, 176.83, 177.848 and related
sections for detailed stowage and segregation requirements.
III. Common-Sense Reminders
HMR are only effective when persons who engage in day-to-day transportation-related
activities make a concerted effort to ensure their own compliance, as well as that of
others from whom they may receive shipments. The following reminders, as a minimum, are
provided for consideration to ensure that hazardous materials are recognized and handled
safely in conformance with the regulations.
A. Know Your Customer
your customer manufacture, ship or transport products that are hazardous materials? If so,
what kind and in what quantities?
B. Know the Packaging
each hazardous material packaged in an authorized packaging that conforms to a DOT
specification or United Nations standard, or other packaging authorization of the HMR?
(See Parts 172, 173, 178-180, including Secs. 172.101, 173.24, 173.24a, and 173.27).
C. Know/Verify the Proper Hazardous Material Description
the shipping description used match the proper shipping name, hazard class or division,
identification number, and packing group listed in the Hazardous Materials Table in Sec.
172.101? Is there a conflict between the documentation and the package marking? Is there
an emergency response telephone number on the shipping paper? Does emergency response
information accompany the shipping paper? Is the shipper's certification entered on the
shipping paper, as required by Sec. 172.204?
D. Visually Inspect Shipments
there damage to a package that makes it unsuitable for transportation? Are hazardous
materials warning labels clearly visible? Is the transport vehicle, freight container, or
bulk packaging properly marked and placarded?
E. Advise Your Customer of Possible Discrepancies
not take independent action to correct known or suspected deficiencies. DON'T GUESS. If
you know or suspect there is a problem, advise your customer and work together to bring
the shipment into conformance with the HMR.
F. Report Violations
operates a toll-free telephone number (800-467-4922) that may be used to voluntarily
report suspected violations of the HMR. Reported violations that concern a single mode of
transportation are forwarded to the appropriate DOT modal administration for follow-up
IV. Obtaining Federal Assistance
in Complying With the HMR
resources of the Department of Transportation are readily available to assist offerors,
carriers, packaging manufacturers and other persons in understanding particular
requirements of the HMR. RSPA operates a hazardous materials information center that
responds to inquiries regarding the HMR. The information center operates during normal
business hours. After-hours callers may leave a recorded message. Calls will be returned
by the end of the next business day. The telephone number is 800-467-4922 or, in
Washington, DC, 202-366- 4488.
information may be obtained directly from DOT's modal administrations (i.e., FAA, FHWA,
FRA, and USCG) at their Washington, DC headquarters or local field offices.
has a variety of training materials and compliance guides available in limited quantities
to interested persons. Information on those publications and related materials is
available via the Internet @ hmix.dis.anl.gov (188.8.131.52) or by calling 800-467-4922,
in Washington, DC on June 7, 1996.
Alan I. Roberts,
Hazardous Materials Safety