It’s important to understand why freight forwarders take certain steps prior to shipping your goods. We previously discussed why it’s important to complete a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction. Now we are addressing why your Freight Forwarder segregates your hazardous materials, even if you request otherwise. The fines for non-compliance are severe. 49 CFR 107.329 provides for the maximum civil penalty amounts. Violators that knowingly violate hazardous material transportation laws and regulations may face no more than a $78,376.00 penalty for each violation, but if the violation results in death, serious illness, severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property the maximum civil penalty is $182,877.00. There is no minimum civil penalty, except for a minimum civil penalty of $471 for violations relating to training. When the violation is a continuing one, each day of the violation constitutes a separate offense.

Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Offices of Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Safety (PHMSA) perform the regulatory oversight of the transportation of hazardous materials. The Federal hazardous materials transportation law authorizes PHMSA’s Chief Counsel to assess a civil penalty or to refer matters for criminal prosecution.  The final determinations as to the penalty assessed are publish under PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Legal Orders. In one case, in March 2013, the violator was fined a $24,900 penalty for three violations. The Legal ordered states:

[The violator] filled and offered for transportation, in commerce, a hazardous material (UN1075, Propane, 2.1), packaged in DOT 4E specification cylinders that were out of test, and overdue for periodic requalification; it offered and transported in commerce a hazardous material (UN 1075, Propane, 2.1) in quantities that required placarding, while failing to register as an offeror and carrier of hazardous materials and failing to pay a registration fee with DOT; and it allowed employees to perform a function subject to the requirements of the HMR, while failing to provide each hazardous materials employee with initial or recurrent general awareness, function-specific, safety, and security training.

What’s a Hazardous Material?

Title 49 of the DOT regulations help to ensure the safety of cargo and persons on board a flight.

DOT’s definition of “hazardous material” is codified at Title 49 CFR § 171.8 and defines it as:

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 49 CFR 172.101), and materials that meet the defining criteria for hazard classes and divisions in part 173 of this subchapter. (emphasis added).

Such material is referred to as “HAZMAT”. Manufacturers/suppliers are required to classify their goods as dangerous or not. If the goods are deemed HAZMAT, suppliers are required to provide a shipper’s declarations to the freight forwarder prior to the goods being transported, certifying that the cargo has been packed, labeled and declared according with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR).

Freight forwarders rely on a shipper’s declaration to safely transport HAZMAT goods and bare a high risk of liability when providing shipping services. HAZMAT requirements govern HAZMAT goods shipped by air, ocean, or by land.

What is a Shipper’s Declaration?

The shipper’s declaration details what is being shipped, the danger level, and the required labeling, packing and transportation method.

 9 Classes of HAZMAT & Required Labeling

There are nine classes of HAZMAT products. Each class has specific labeling requirements. When your product falls within a certain class, the packaging must bear the appropriate label as depicted below. Some of these products may be transported together, but your Freight Forwarder is barred from co-mingling certain items pursuant to 49 CFR 177.848:

Class 1: Explosives

Class 2: Compressed Gasses

Class 3: Flammable Liquids

Class 4: Flammable Solids

Class 5: Oxidizers

Class 6: Poison/Toxic

Class 7: Radioactive

Class 8: Corrosive

Class 9: Miscellaneous (Dry ice, magnets, vehicles, etc)


49 CFR 177.848(d), provides a table to assist freight forwarder’s identify how hazardous materials must be stored, loaded or transported. Certain items may not be stored, packaged, or transported together. The following chart provides guidance on how your freight forwarder is able to comingle certain hazardous classes.

  • Green indicates no restrictions.
  • Yellow indicates that classes can be transported together with some restrictions.
  • Red indicates that there are no circumstances under which these goods can be transported or stored together.)

Mishandling HAZMAT goods may lead to disastrous situations and penalties! It’s important that you as a supplier, importer, or exporter follow your Freight Forwarder’s transportation practices to safely and compliantly ship your goods to their final destination.

If you receive a penalty, DTL is ready to help you. We can be reached at or 305-456-3830.