Efficient and Compliant Hazmat Shipping: Today You Can Have Both

Q: What are the common hazmat violations, and what are the consequences for shippers and carriers?

A: In the United States, both the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulate hazardous material (or dangerous goods) transportation. Penalties can range from a few thousand dollars to more than one million dollars, and repeat violations tend to cause penalties to escalate dramatically. The most common reasons shippers incur penalties when shipping hazardous materials include:

  • Failure to declare hazmat items when shipping
  • Failure to properly train employees
  • Mislabeled packaging
  • Mistakes on hazmat shipping papers
  • Failure to use UN specification packaging

Q: How has technology evolved to manage hazmat compliance risks?

A: For many companies, hazardous material shipping is still a very manual process. To be compliant, the shipper has to understand not only the intrinsic properties of a particular chemical, for example, and how to classify it, but also the quantity limitations, packing instructions, special provisions, carrier variations, and state variations, if shipping internationally. This often involves consulting five or more different sections of regulations to determine all the requirements that apply.

Many technologies available today can ease this burden, including:

  • Electronic versions of the regulations that allow easy navigation within and between regulations.
  • Automated validation software that checks shipping paper content against the regulations to flag compliance issues before a shipment is completed.
  • Classification wizards that allow for easy classification of hazmat products by guiding users through a series of basic questions.
  • Smart labels that use bar codes linked to software to confirm that the labels on the package match those that are required, based on shipping documents.

Q: Can I maintain the highest level of compliance without sacrificing shipping efficiencies?

A: Yes. If you follow certain guidelines, you can ensure that strong compliance standards go hand-in-hand with efficient shipping operations:

  • Hazmat data strategy. By clearly defining the process and responsibility for classifying and storing dangerous goods data, you can speed up shipment processing by always having the right information when a shipment needs to go out.
  • Integration. If you are using specialized software for processing hazmat shipments, make sure it can easily integrate into other systems such as your enterprise resource planning solution or manifest system.
  • Carrier-recognized. Make sure any hazmat software solution is recognized by your primary carriers. For example, FedEx and UPS require use of pre-approved software for hazmat shipping.
  • Tech support. Given the complexity of the regulations, it is critical that any technology solutions you are using to process hazmat shipments have robust tech support so issues can be resolved quickly without delaying shipments.

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