10 Ways to Cut Hazmat Shipping Time and Costs

NOTE: Last update June 14, 2013.

The job of a hazmat shipper is not an easy one.

Continual regulatory changes require a near-vigilant watch over the goings-on of the governmental agencies that make them. A shipper must know each carrier and freight-forwarders' unique set of rules and requirements on everything from packaging to shipping papers – Not to mention the myriad of different compliance measures required when choosing a mode of transportation!

Employers are required to train employees on how to use the regulations and supply them the resources they need to do the job.

While the task seems daunting, savvy hazmat shippers know that shipping hazardous materials safely and accurately is not only possible, but can be realized while saving both time and money.

1. Establish Your Regulatory Network

All too often shippers are blindsided by a regulatory requirement that has either been changed or added. Even the slightest alteration of a regulation can make the difference whether a shipment is refused or accepted – to say nothing of the fines a shipper can incur if an error is detected. Ideally, daily monitoring of government Web sites should keep a shipper in compliance but the reality is far different. To save time, look for software and online methods that track these changes. Find a reliable source with expertise in hazmat transportation and a background in regulatory monitoring.

2. Know Your Mode of Transportation

As the saying goes, "What's good for the goose is not always good for the gander." Nowhere is that more true than when shipping hazardous materials using the three different modes of transportation. Quantity limitations, labeling, shipping paper, authorized exceptions and packaging requirements can vary widely from mode to mode. The labyrinth of multimodal regulations and the time-consuming task of working through them prompt some shippers to use shortcuts – often with costly consequences. This same reason may also prevent some shippers from taking advantage of cost saving exceptions that apply to specific modes. Online hazardous materials tables that combine the requirements for all three modes of transportation can take the guesswork out of shipping and make it easier for a shipper to be in compliance no matter the chosen mode.

3. Ensure Accurately Completed Shipping Papers

The shipping paper is the most important document in the hazardous materials shipping process. It explains the identity of the material, the quantity, and who to contact should something go awry. Shipping papers that are filled out manually often run the risk of being incomplete or containing inaccurate or inconsistent information. Creating shipping paper templates via your personal computer or with a software program – especially one that works in conjunction with the current regulations – will help a shipper avoid costly delays or fines.

4. Properly Train Employees

Every hazmat employee must receive at least General Awareness, Function-Specific, Safety, and Security Awareness Training. Such training is costly, especially when it takes employees off-site for instruction. But a primary reason for rejection of a hazardous materials shipment is the untrained employee. It doesn't just stop there; employees who do not have the available regulatory knowledge cannot make an accurate decision when assembling a shipment. Invest in training and make regulatory materials available at every job site.

5. Select the Proper Packaging

Commonly, shipments are refused by acceptance personnel in all modes of transport because the shipper chose an incorrect or inadequate container. Depending on the type of material and the hazard it possesses, appropriate packaging is not just a matter of compliance but also a matter of safety. Navigating the regulatory waters when selecting a package can be arduous, but utilizing programs such as electronic hazardous materials tables that put this information at your fingertips can alleviate time and save money.

6. Label and Mark Packages Correctly

Misrepresenting a hazard is a huge mistake. Communicating the hazard associated with a material can mean the difference between life and death in some situations. New regulatory requirements, such as the Air Eligibility marking, assure a carrier or freight-forwarder that a package intended for air transportation is assembled according to the regulations. Without it, the shipment will be refused. Don't take chances with labeling and marking – use software and Internet programs that combine proper shipping names, UN and Class numbers with the appropriate markings and labels that are required for each material.

7. Placard Vehicles Correctly

The first thing a state trooper is going to notice on a vehicle is an incorrectly used placard or no placarding at all. A vehicle that has not been placarded according to regulations may be handing a DOT officer an invitation to scrutinize the entire shipment. Know when a vehicle must be placarded and with which hazard class. Purchase placards and placarding systems from a supplier who knows the regulations and provides a quality product that has been tested to meet regulatory requirements. Electronic regulatory references and online networks can save time when trying to search through the regulations with placarding questions.

8. Know Your Carrier and Freight Forwarder

Knowing what each governmental body requires for hazardous materials shipping may not be enough. Oftentimes, carriers and freight forwarders impose additional requirements on hazardous materials shipping – and are within their rights to do so! Generally, freight forwarders are known to reject the most number of shipments. Find out if your carrier or freight forwarder requires proprietary software when using their services. Check with them to learn if a computer-generated shipping paper is necessary. Some software programs available can help you learn if these carriers and freight forwarders carry variations detailing special packaging requirements.

9. Learn About Additional Resources

Many shippers are at the mercy of complicated regulatory language, reading and rereading the regulations and still not understanding what these regulations mean to their business. Additional resources – like letters of interpretation, exemptions, and regulatory supplements – can help make comprehending the regulations easier. Purchasing software that incorporates these tools can help save time on research and interpretation.

10.Plan Ahead

Recent events and the globalization of hazardous materials shipping have placed the hazardous materials shipper in an even more crucial position in the world's economy than ever before. Companies must constantly find ways to keep up with regulatory changes and remain in compliance, all the while saving money and keeping their shipments safe.

Investing in software, online and Intranet tools from reliable and knowledgeable sources ahead of time are essential to the success of any hazardous material shipper.

©2013 Labelmaster, An American Labelmark Company

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