Dangerous Cargo Regulations

49 CFR

What It Is

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, governs the domestic transportation of hazardous materials for all modes of transport to, from, and within the United States.


Who Is Responsible For It

Title 49 is composed of nine volumes. The volumes containing Parts 100-185 for the transportation of hazardous materials are overseen by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.


What It Says

The 49 CFR addresses key protocols for preparing, shipping, and handling dangerous goods. Any person handling dangerous goods should read, understand, and comply with all elements of the 49 CFR. Some of the highlights include:

  • The description of hazardous materials by class, including explosives, gases, flammable and combustible liquids and solids, poisons, radioactive materials, and corrosive agents.
  • The amount of hazardous materials permitted in certain primary containers as well as the total volume per shipped package.
  • The types of packages and packaging required to safely transport hazardous materials.
  • Testing requirements needed to reach specific performance standards.
  • The documentation required when shipping hazardous materials.
  • The markings and labels required on packaging and the placards required by the carrier.
  • Training and safety plan requirements.


For each type of hazardous material, there are specific rules, and it is the role of the shipper to understand the requirements. In particular, Part 173.22 outlines the shipper’s responsibility inpreparing hazardous materials for transportation. Among other things, the shipper must ensure:

  • The product is classified and described properly.
  • The package or container is an authorized package including being manufactured, assembled, packed, and marked in accordance to regulations.
  • The package has met all the testing requirements listed in Part 178.


Where to Find It

You can find the entire 49 CFR at Phmsa.dot.gov/regulations.



United Nations Model Regulations

What it is

Outside the United States, the UN Model Regulations provide international guidelines regarding all aspects of transporting dangerous goods. International rules do not always harmonize with U.S. regulations, so it’s important to understand these UN guidelines if you are shipping goods outside the United States. The UN Model Regulations are not obligatory or legally binding within individual countries, but they have gained a wide degree of international acceptance.


Who is responsible for it

The UN Regulations are created by the Transport of Dangerous Goods sub-committee of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.


What it says

As with the 49 CFR, the UN Regulations outline the packaging, labeling, and handling requirements for shipping dangerous goods.


The UN framework has been adopted and modified by other organizations. For example:

  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has developed regulations for the air transport of hazardous materials. ICAO is the regulatory body for all international air shipments of dangerous goods.
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) builds on the UN/ICAO rules and incorporates individual airline and governmental requirements into their Dangerous Goods Regulations document.
  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the regulatory body for all shipments of dangerous goods on the high seas.

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