This section covers the transportation of items that are considered hazardous materials. This includes the federal and international regulations that regulate these goods, how to recognize hazardous materials, and the key responsibilities for retailers.
Hazardous materials are materials with the potential for health, safety, or environmental hazards during transportation in commerce. A wide variety of consumer products and other chemicals that are routinely distributed and sold by retailers may be hazardous materials, including:
Hazardous Materials rules apply to anyone who offers hazardous materials to a carrier for transportation or anyone who transports hazardous materials in commerce.
Retailers who send hazardous materials from distribution centers to stores, who ship hazardous materials directly to customers, or who send hazardous materials in reverse logistics are hazardous materials shippers. In addition, retailers who send hazardous materials using their own transportation fleet are also hazardous materials carriers.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation has established rules for how hazardous materials must be transported by road, rail, air and water. These rules are commonly known as the Hazardous Materials Regulations or the HMR.
Common carriers, such as overnight delivery services or the U.S. Postal Service, impose additional restrictions on hazardous materials. For example, some overnight carriers require compliance with international air regulations, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations. It is important to check with your carrier to make sure you are complying with their requirements for shipping hazardous materials.
Imports from overseas are generally subject to international rules, such as the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, if imported by air, or the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, if imported by sea. Under some circumstances, shippers may use Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations for transportation by motor vehicle or rail from the United States to Canada, or from Canada to the United States. Transportation to or from Mexico generally must be in accordance with the hazardous materials rules of each respective country (i.e., the HMR for the portion of the journey in the United States).
The federal PHMSA regulations generally preempt state regulation of hazardous materials transportation, although states may in some cases impose additional requirements as long as they are not inconsistent with federal requirements. For example, some states require licenses for transporting hazardous materials, in addition to federal requirements.
Requirements for transporting hazardous materials vary based on the type of hazardous material, the quantity being transported, the manner of packaging, the mode of transportation (e.g., air or ground), and the transport route (e.g., domestic or international).
Hazardous materials are materials listed in an HMR table in 49 C.F.R. 172.101 and any other material that meets the criteria set forth in 49 CFR Part 173 for one or more of the following hazard classes. Hazardous materials also include hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, and marine pollutants, as specified in the HMR.
This might include fireworks, flares, ammunition, and toy rockets.
Gases (Flammable or Non-Flammable)
This might include aerosols, carbon dioxide cartridges, propane tanks, and fire extinguishers.
This might include vanilla extract, some cough syrups, perfumes, nail polish remover, lighter fluid, oil-based paint, and paint thinner.
This might include matches and charcoal.
Oxidizers & Peroxides
This might include some pool chemicals and some cleaning products.
Toxic (Poisonous or Infectious)
This might include some medicines, some garden care products and used needles or other medical wastes from onsite clinics.
This might include some building exit signs and smoke detectors.
This might include lead acid batteries and some cleaning products.
This might include dry ice, lithium batteries and hazardous wastes that do not meet the criteria for hazard classes 1-8.
Information about a product's hazardous materials classification may be in the Safety Data Sheet or may be obtained from the manufacturer.
Some wastes are classified as hazardous materials, including:
Anyone who offers hazardous materials to a carrier or anyone who transports hazardous materials in commerce must comply with detailed requirements for the specific hazardous material and the mode of transportation, including:
Numerous exceptions may be available, depending on the type of material, quantity, packaging, and mode of transport. Exceptions typically provide only limited relief or impose different requirements. Some potentially relevant exceptions for retailers include:
ORM-D Mark for U.S. Ground Transport Available Until 2021
Different requirements apply to each of these exceptions.
Transport Canada, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations
PHMSA, Mexican Standards and Guidance
Look here for retail-specific information on environmental regulations by regulatory area. If you don’t know which areas apply, use the store department search function.