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Shipping hazardous materials

Shipping Hazardous Material

Shipping hazardous material involves adhering to strict regulations and procedures to ensure the safe transportation of potentially dangerous substances.

What Are Hazardous Material (Hazmat)?


Hazardous or hazmat material is considered any substance that risks health, environment, property, or safety. These are typically items that can become flammable or have toxic traits.

Examples of Hazmat items, like fireworks or gasoline, are things we encounter almost daily. Hazmat categories cover any substance able to cause risk or harm to a person or environment.

Hazardous materials threaten human health, safety, and the environment. This especially applies when transporting hazmat. Using incorrect packaging or not properly storing dangerous cargo can cause serious harm to anyone who comes in contact with it.

While some hazmat is rare, some we use daily. Some are useful to us, like cleaning chemicals or soaps, while some have limited use. More dangerous hazmat items include fuels, toxic waste, and medicine.

A prominent example can be COVID-19 tests and vaccines.


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Dangerous Goods Signs Shipping Hazardous Material

Different Levels of Hazardous Material

Here’s how the National Fire Protection Association rates hazmat in the United States:

  • Red | Flammable
  • Blue | Health Hazard
  • Yellow | Instability Hazard
  • 4 | Lethal or explosive
  • 3 | Permanent injury cause
  • 2 | Temporary injury or chemical change
  • 1 | No hazard or stable


While handling or shipping most hazardous materials, material safety data sheets (MSDS) are a must-have. This paperwork provides in-depth information about the shipment and how it will transport.

Overall, it will have safety guidance and a first aid process to follow in the case of exposure. Review the procedures of the MSDS before shipping any hazmat product.

Also, make extra copies of the safety data sheets included with the shipment.

While setting up transit, make sure to package materials by the regulations of the goods with correct and marked containers. Let the carrier know in advance the specifics of the materials you are setting up for transport.

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How Do You Ship Hazardous Materials?


Our Quick Quote form online includes a box to select the “Hazmat” service option. The extra cost to ship hazmat will be in the price. Keep in mind that not all carriers can handle Hazmat freight.

Licensed carriers in the U.S. are required to indicate hazmat by a diamond-shaped sign. The color of the diamond will show the type of hazard the product represents. 


Hazmat Regulations and Legal Requirements:


Shipping hazardous materials is heavily regulated by international and national agencies. For instance, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provide specific guidelines for the packaging, labeling, documentation, and transportation of hazardous materials. These regulations ensure the safety of individuals, the environment, and the transportation process itself.


Hazardous materials are classified based on their properties, potential risks, and handling requirements. 

  • Explosives (Class 1): This class includes materials capable of causing an explosion, such as fireworks and ammunition. Class 1 explosives have an orange placard with their hazard class, division number, or compatibility letter at the bottom.

Hazmat explosive class 1 orange placard


  • Gases (Class 2): Gases are categorized as flammable, non-flammable, toxic, or oxidizing. Gases are often compressed, liquefied, or dissolved under pressure. Packaging for gases includes specialized cylinders or containers that can withstand pressure changes. Commonly transported class 2 dangerous goods are oxygen, lighters, and aerosols.

class 2 flammable gas symbol sign

  • Flammable Liquids (Class 3): Flammable liquids have a low flash point and can easily catch fire. Examples include gasoline and alcohol. Packaging for flammable liquids must prevent leaks and be resistant to ignition sources. Proper labeling consists of a white or black flame with the number 3 at the bottom on a red diamond-shaped placard. 

dangerous goods placards class 3 flammable liquids


  • Flammable Solids (Class 4): Flammable solids can ignite easily due to friction, heat, or exposure to moisture. These include substances like matches and magnesium. Packaging for flammable solids needs to prevent friction and moisture contact. Proper labeling consists of a black flame with the number 4 at the bottom on a red diamond-shaped placard. 

flammable solids class 4 placards


  • Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides (Class 5): These materials can enhance combustion and make fires burn more intensely. They need proper packaging to prevent contact with combustible materials and to avoid reactions that could lead to fires or explosions. Proper labeling consists of a black flame over a circle with the number 5.1 at the bottom on a yellow diamond-shaped placard. Organic Peroxides are class 5.2 and would be a black or white flame with the top half of the diamond placard red and the bottom half yellow.

hazardous hazmat material label oxidizing substances


  • Toxic and Infectious Substances (Class 6): This class includes materials that can cause harm to humans or the environment. Packaging for these materials should prevent leaks, spills, and contact with people or other substances. These labels have a skull with crossbones at the top and the number 6 at the bottom of the diamond placard. Division 6.2 is for infectious substances, and the biohazard symbol is used with the number 6.2 at the bottom.

hazardous materials hazmat warning label poison


  • Radioactive Materials (Class 7): Radioactive materials emit ionizing radiation and require specialized packaging to prevent exposure to individuals and the environment. Commonly transported class 7 goods are radioactive ores and isotopes. This label has a black trefoil icon at the top, with the placard having a white background. Mandatory text in the lower half of the label: Radioactive, Contents, and Activity. A category one radioactive needs a red bar next to the word radioactive. A Category 2 radioactive should have the top half of the placard being a yellow background and two red bars next to the word Radioactive. Category 3 is the same as category 2, except it has 3 three red bars next to the word Radioactive. All three placards should have the number 7 at the bottom of the diamond placard.

radioactive class 7 placard sign white yellow


  • Corrosive Materials (Class 8): Corrosive substances such as acids and batteries can damage other materials upon contact. Packaging for corrosive materials should prevent leaks and corrosion of the packaging itself. The label should have a symbol of liquids spilling from two glass vessels and attacking a hand and a metal. The top half of the diamond placard is white, and the bottom half is black with a white number 8. 

class 8 corrosive symbol hazmat placard


  • Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods (Class 9): This class includes materials that don’t fit neatly into the other categories but still pose risks during transportation. Some examples are marine pollutants and lithium-ion batteries. The label has seven vertical stripes in the upper half of the diamond placard. The background is white, and the number 9 is underlined in the bottom corner. 

miscellaneous dangerous goods sign placard class 9

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To create value for our customers by delivering customized shipping solutions that meet their unique needs and to fulfill shipping demands from simple to complex with expertise, guidance and ingenuity.

Less than truckload (LTL):

Less than Truckload (LTL) is a cost-effective freight transportation mode for shippers with smaller shipments that don't require a full truckload. FreightCenter offers LTL shipping services from a vast network of carriers, providing shippers with competitive rates and reliable transit times.

Full Truckload (FTL):

FreightCenter offers Full Truckload (FTL) services for shippers looking to move large, oversized, or high-value freight. With FTL, shippers can secure an entire trailer for their freight, ensuring faster transit times and reduced risk of damage or loss. Our FTL services are cost-effective and reliable, making them an ideal choice for businesses that require full truckload shipments.


Specialized transportation is a mode of freight transportation that involves unique equipment, expertise, and handling techniques to transport freight that standard transportation modes cannot move. This can include oversize, overweight, or oddly shaped cargo, hazardous materials, high-value goods, or items that require specialized handling. At FreightCenter, we offer specialized transportation solutions to meet the unique needs of our customers.


Expedited shipping is a specialized service that offers faster transit times than standard shipping. FreightCenter provides expedited shipping solutions for time-sensitive freight that needs to be delivered quickly. Our team of experts will work with you to determine the best-expedited shipping option for your specific needs, whether air freight, exclusive use vehicles, or other expedited services.

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Chemicals and Hazardous Materials

Different Usages for Hazardous Material

Even though it is best to steer clear of hazardous materials, they still play a part in our daily lives. Hazmat products like bleach or hand sanitizer can be bought in a local convenient store.

While some are easy to come across and are somewhat toxic if consumed, others we use for medical reasons. Hospital X-ray and MRI machines send out radiation that may be harmful to a healthy person, but it can overcome sickness. Chemotherapy is hazmat but has saved many lives.


Treating Hazardous Material

Treating hazardous materials can be a very dangerous process, although it can benefit our economy in a big way. Each Hazmat level requires a specific type of personal protective equipment. The gear worn by hazard cleanup teams is called hazmat suits.

What are SCBA and APR?


SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus)

Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is a helmet for protection against low oxygen, dust, and gasses. To avoid mixing SCBA with scuba, SCBA helmets are for above and underwater use, not for hazmat.

However, scuba gear is mainly for below-sea-level use. These are mostly worn at waste managing plants, aboard ships or plains, and in tunnels. In a fire, you may see a firefighter wear an SCBA helmet.


APR (Air Purifying Respirator)

There are many acronyms for APR, but we are not talking about your credit card. However, an air purifying respirator (APR) is necessary to filter any harmful elements from the lungs. While wearing an APR, you can safely enter an infectious or dangerous site.


Ship Hazmat With FreightCenter

Have any questions? Let FreightCenter help! We are experts when it comes to shipping products both nationally and internationally. Our freight agents can ease you into the process to ensure a smooth ride for you and your shipment.

Use FreightCenter’s freight shipping quote tool to begin. Call our shipping experts at 800-719–7608 for other locations. Saving money doesn’t have to cost more in the long haul: Let FreightCenter be your “one-stop shipping solution.”


Hazmat Shipping FAQ


Q. What are hazardous materials, and what precautions should I take when shipping them?


Hazardous materials refer to substances that possess the potential to cause harm to humans, the environment, or property. 

Q. How can I determine if the material I intend to ship is hazardous? 


Determining whether a material is hazardous can be complex, as it depends on factors such as chemical composition, physical properties, and intended use. Regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), provide comprehensive guidelines and classifications to identify hazardous materials.

Q. How much does it cost to ship hazardous materials?


 Shipping hazardous materials through a freight carrier can involve additional costs due to the specialized packaging, handling, and transportation requirements associated with these materials. The actual cost will depend on several factors, including the type and quantity of hazardous materials being shipped, the distance of the shipment, the mode of transportation (such as by air, land, or sea), and any additional services or regulations that may apply.

Q. What regulations must be followed for shipping hazardous materials?


When shipping hazardous materials, it is important to follow specific regulations. These regulations require a proper description of the goods on shipping papers, including the correct shipping name, hazard class, and identification number. Additionally, a certification must be signed to ensure compliance. 

Q. Are there specific labeling requirements for hazardous material shipments? 


Absolutely. Proper labeling is crucial when shipping hazardous materials. Every package containing hazardous materials must display hazard labels, placards, and markings that indicate the nature of the material and the potential risks associated with it. These labels help inform individuals handling the shipment about the necessary precautions they should take.

Q. What documentation is necessary for shipping hazardous materials? 


Shipping hazardous materials involves specific documentation to ensure compliance and traceability. Depending on the mode of transportation, these may include a hazardous material shipping declaration, a bill of lading, a shipper’s declaration, and a safety data sheet (SDS). The documentation should accurately describe the material, its classification, and any required emergency response information in case of accidents or spills.


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