HazMat Shipping Violations: It’s Time to Secure Your Load

HazMat Shipping: It's Time to Secure Your Load

Shipper or carrier…who’s in charge?

Shipment of FailWhen it comes to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) packaging requirements, the shipper is the responsible party for ensuring compliance with hazardous materials transportation regulations. If the carrier repackages any of the hazardous materials being transported, then they become the shipper and must adhere to hazmat packaging requirements as well.

The Top 10 violation results are pouring in. And, so far in fiscal year 2016, DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) roadside inspections have turned up striking similarities to the 2015 hazmat violations Top 10 list. As of mid-2016, FMCSA has performed 126,250 roadside inspections of trucks focusing on hazardous materials transportation compliance. As a result of those inspections, DOT has identified 26,889 violations. Comparatively, in FY 2015, DOT conducted 191,261 hazardous material compliance inspections resulting in 42,599 hazmat violations for the year. Of the 2016 Top 10 violations to date, nine of the top ten also showed up as part of the 2015 Top 10 list.

Download the Top 10 HazMat Shipping Violations Checklist now to avoid becoming another statistic!

So, what’s a shipper to learn from these findings?

Learning from Other’s Mistakes

Topping the violations list for two years in a row, ‘package not secure in vehicle’ took the #1 violation honors and ‘no copy of the U.S. DOT Hazardous Materials Registration number’ slid in at #2.

Epic FailIn FY2016 with 2,363 violations recorded, unsecure packages accounted for almost 9% of the total violations. Coming in a close second, inspectors documented 2,024 instances where the transport vehicle had no copy of the DOT hazmat registration number.

Rounding out the remaining violations on the list were issues with placarding and shipping papers. Missing placards, or placards that are damaged or obscured equals a violation.

For shipping papers, the location of the papers in the truck is a critical piece of compliance, especially whenever the driver is NOT in the vehicle. In that instance, the shipping papers are required to be in a holder mounted to the inside of the door on the driver’s side of the vehicle. If the shipping papers are located anywhere else in the vehicle when the driver is not at the vehicle controls, it is a violation. According to DOT, the standardized location of shipping papers was established to ensure the ready access by emergency response personnel in the event of an incident.

A summary of the top 10 hazmat transportation violations identified so far in 2016 FY is shown in the graphic below:




# of Inspections

# of Violations

% of total Violations

1 49 CFR 177.834 Package not secure in vehicle




2 49 CFR
No copy of U.S. DOT Hazardous Materials Registration number




3 49 CFR 172.516 Placard damaged, deteriorated, or obscured




4 49 CFR 177.817 Shipping paper accessibility




5 49 CFR 172.504 Vehicle not placarded as required




6 49 CFR 177.817 No shipping papers (carrier)




7 49 CFR 172.502 Failure to provide carrier required placards




8 49 CFR 172.202 Failure to enter basic description of hazardous materials in proper sequence




9 49 CFR 177.823 No placards/markings when required




10 49 CFR 172.600 Emergency response information not available




Data Source: FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System

Bottom Line: Secure Your Load

Download free Hazmat Shipping Violations ChecklistSo, if DOT inspectors have already assessed almost 2400 violations of unsecure loads to date in 2016FY, what constitutes a ‘secure’ load?

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) concerning securing packages in motor vehicles (49 CFR 177.834):

  • Packages with Hazardous Materials: Any packages that contain a hazardous material and are not permanently attached to a motor vehicle must be secured against shifting, including relative motion between packages under conditions normally incident to transportation.
  • Packages with Valves or Other Fittings: Packages that have valves or other fittings must be loaded in such a way to minimize the likelihood of damage during transportation.

Guidelines from PHMSA

While there are no specific methods for securing hazardous material packages spelled out by either Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations or PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Regulations, there are some guidelines from PHMSA on specific scenarios.

For example, does shrink-wrapping and strapping a load constitute a ‘secure load’? While not giving a definitive yes or no answer to questions regarding any specific load, PHMSA does concede that shrink wrapping packages to a pallet and strapping the pallets in place is a compliant method for securing the load.

hazmatshipohnoRegarding the issue of ‘relative motion between packages’, PHMSA officials agree that ‘relative motion between packages’ does not mean ‘zero motion’’. The basic definition given regarding relative motion is that packages must not shift during normal transport conditions, including vehicle starting, stopping, or cornering, or in situations of accident avoidance or varied road conditions.

So, basically, one can interpret that to mean hazardous materials packages are not supposed to shift at any point during movement of the vehicle. Unfortunately, this rather undefinable ‘relative motion’ requirement is left open to the interpretation of each inspector. What one inspector deems to be ‘secure’ may not necessarily be considered secure by another inspector. In light of the fact that unsecured packages ranks as the #1 violation for the past two years, it is obvious that inspectors are taking an extremely conservative interpretation of this regulation.

So shippers beware! In order to keep from being a statistic on the list of Top 10 Violations, be diligent to secure hazardous materials against any shifting or movement to the maximum extent possible. Download the Top 10 Hazmat Shipping Violations Checklist to make sure you don't become another statistic!

Questions or Need Help?

Give us a call at (512) 301-1451 and we’ll be happy to assist in answering your questions.

Additional Useful Links and Guidance –

Download free Hazmat Shipping Violations Checklist


Image Credits:

Shipping Fail: http://www.firststarlogistics.com/fails/

Overloaded truck with blue bins: http://iwannagetphysical.blogspot.com/

Blue Truck with dirt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCrujUApC9M

Beer on road: http://funhoo.com/





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