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Transporting Hazardous Materials

The sector of the trucking industry that transports hazardous materials is under regulation by multiple federal, state and local agencies. The following is an overview of the major laws enacted, the regulations, training requirements and other resources:

Hazardous Material Overview


OSHA has limited jurisdiction of over-the-road vehicle operation. In the instance of spills occurring while the material is on the vehicle or otherwise "in transportation," OSHA's HAZWOPER standard does not cover the operator per se. It does, however, cover emergency response personnel who respond to the incident. If the operator of the vehicle becomes actively involved in an emergency response, then he/she is considered an emergency responder and is covered by 29 CFR 1910.120(q).

Hazardous Material Transportation Act of 1975 (HMTA)

The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act of 1975 (HMTA) empowered the Secretary of Transportation to designate as hazardous material any "particular quantity or form" of a material that "may pose an unreasonable risk to health and safety or property."

Hazardous materials regulations are subdivided by function into four basic areas:

  • Procedures and/or Policies 49 CFR Parts 101, 106, and 107
  • Material Designations 49 CFR Part 172
  • Packaging Requirements 49 CFR Parts 173, 178, 179, and 180
  • Operational Rules 49 CFR Parts 171, 173, 174, 175, 176, and 177

The HMTA is enforced by use of compliance orders [49 U.S.C. 1808(a)], civil penalties [49 U.S.C. 1809(b)], and injunctive relief (49 U.S.C. 1810). The HMTA (Section 112, 40 U.S.C. 1811) preempts state and local governmental requirements that are inconsistent with the statute, unless that requirement affords an equal or greater level of protection to the public than the HMTA requirement.

Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990

In 1990, Congress enacted the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act (HMTUSA) to clarify the maze of conflicting state, local, and federal regulations. Like the HMTA, the HMTUSA requires the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations for the safe transport of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce. The Secretary also retains authority to designate materials as hazardous when they pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, or property.

The statute includes provisions to encourage uniformity among different state and local highway routing regulations, to develop criteria for the issuance of federal permits to motor carriers of hazardous materials, and to regulate the transport of radioactive materials.

Reporting an Oil or Hazardous Chemical Spill

  • National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan Overview. US Coast Guard (USCG). Coordinates response and the National Response Center, which became operational in August of 1974 at US Coast Guard. Headquarters in Washington, D.C. for the reporting and coordination of response to pollution by oil and hazardous substances.
    • National Response Center. Serves as the sole federal point of contact for reporting oil and hazardous chemical spills. The criteria for reporting such incidents were set forth in 40 CFR 110 for oil discharges and 40 CFR 116 for hazardous substances discharges. You may contact (800) 424-8802 to report oil and hazardous chemical spills.

Radioactive Materials

Several agencies have overlapping authorities for regulating shipments of radioactive materials. DOT regulates the shipment of hazardous materials, including radioactive materials. National Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates commercial activities of nuclear power plants. Department of Energy (DOE) ships commercial radioactive waste for storage and defense nuclear waste and weapons for storage or use. DOE and EPA share responsibility for transportation of hazardous wastes or radioactive and hazardous waste mixtures generated at facilities operated by DOE under the authority of the Atomic Energy Agency (AEA).



  • 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response
  • 1910.134, Respiratory protection
    • See OSHA Standards for OSHA standards, directives and standard interpretations.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

US Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • 49 CFR 172, Hazardous Materials Table, Special Provisions, Hazardous Materials Communications, Emergency Response Information and Training Requirements
  • 49 CFR 173, Shipper's--General Requirements for Shipments and Packaging
  • 49 CFR 177, Carriage by Public Highway. Section 177.823 applies to movement of motor vehicles in emergency situations
  • 49 CFR 397, Transportation of Hazardous Materials; Driving and Parking Rules
Training Requirements


  • 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response
  • 1910.134, Respiratory Protection

US Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • 49 CFR 172, Hazardous Materials Table, Special Provisions, Hazardous Materials Communications, Emergency Response Information and Training Requirements.
General Hazard References
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