Transporting Specialist Industrial Cargo in the USA

If you’re transporting specialized industrial cargo, it might constitute HAZMAT or dangerous goods.

Every industry has a unique set of goods that are sent around the US every day. For some, these are harmless items that require no special preparation. For other industries, though, sending their products and materials is no small operation, as they utilize hazardous materials and must take special care when organizing the transportation of dangerous goods by air.

This article will look at the regulation provided by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on dangerous goods classes to help you figure out whether your industrial cargo constitutes hazardous material. After reading, you’ll be abreast of the minutiae involved in dangerous goods air cargo charter and ready to send your hazardous cargo to wherever it needs to be. When it comes to hazardous goods transport, freight specialists with extensive experience organizing the carriage of dangerous goods by air should be your first port of call – luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place!

Class 1 – Explosives

In the realm of dangerous air cargo, it doesn’t get much more dangerous than this. The risk posed by explosive cargo is fairly self-explanatory and shouldn’t need too much elaboration, but perhaps a little more detail is required as to the types of cargo that can fall into this dangerous goods class. The FAA clarifies: “an explosive means any substance or article, including a device, which is designed to function by explosion or which, by a chemical reaction within itself, is able to function in a similar manner.” This might seem a little reductive, but it can be boiled down as follows: if it explodes, it’s an explosive.

Fireworks, ammunition, flares – it will surprise nobody to hear that these objects fall within the remit of explosive goods, but more innocuous cargo can also be classed as explosives. Fuses, airbag inflators, and minor igniters also fall within this category, so it’s important to look beyond your initial assessment of the class that your goods might fall into and to guarantee that you’re organizing the correct form of dangerous goods shipping.

Class 2 – Gases

The FAA takes “gas” to mean: “any material which is a gas at 20 °C (68 °F) or less and 101.3 kPa (14.7 psia) of pressure.” This definition is then further split into flammable, poisonous, and compressed gases, but ultimately the breadth of the scope of this provision can be simplified as follows: if your cargo is a gas, there’s a good chance it falls into Class 2. If it falls into Class 2, you’ve got dangerous air cargo on your hands and should proceed as such.

Class 3 – Flammable Liquid

Like explosives in Class 1, flammable liquid is a term that leaves little room for misinterpretation. Still, the FAA notes that: “a flammable liquid (Class 3) means a liquid having a flash point of not more than 60 °C (140 °F).” Simple, right? Maybe not. There is a long list of exceptions and specific guidance regarding combustibility, flashpoints, and viscosity that make what may seem like one of the more straightforward classes far more complex than meets the eye. To ensure that your flammable cargo is treated appropriately by your chosen dangerous goods air cargo company, it’s worth becoming acquainted with the detail offered by the FAA.

Class 4 – Flammable Solids, Spontaneously Combustible Material, and Dangerous When Wet Material

This class is a little broader than its predecessors and includes a wide range of potentially dangerous goods. A quick rule to apply here is difficult, as the FAA’s guidance on Class 4 is wordy and fairly long-winded. Under section 3 (i), they note that readily combustible materials are solids which “may cause a fire through friction.” Perhaps the first 4 words of this dangerous goods class are the most appropriate when considering whether your goods fall into Class 4: “may cause a fire.”

If you’re shipping hazardous materials by air and you’re aware that, at any point and under even the most specific conditions, they may cause a fire, then they’re dangerous and you should proceed accordingly.

Class 5 – Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides

Now we’re starting to come to the more esoteric classes of dangerous goods air cargo. For the benefit of those of us who left our biochemistry PhD at home, “organic peroxide (Division 5.2) means any organic compound containing oxygen (O) in the bivalent -O-O- structure and which may be considered a derivative of hydrogen peroxide.” The reason for the regulation of organic peroxides is again related to combustibility: in breaking down, they can yield oxygen and readily create flammable cargo.

Given their specialist nature, it’s unlikely that one would accidentally ship organic peroxides by air, and most would-be transporters are likely already aware of the risks and precautions involved. This category most often concerns the carriage of fertilizer, so Class 5 is the frequent domain of farmers and agriculturalists, but if you’re considering sending fertilizer for other reasons then you should be aware that you’ll need to enlist specialists to help with your dangerous goods air freight.

Class 6 – Poisonous Materials

Poisonous material (Division 6.1) means a material, other than a gas, which is known to be so toxic to humans as to afford a hazard to health during transportation.” This is fairly self-explanatory, and the proviso that this class does not apply to gases is a result of Class 2, where poisonous gases are included. Fundamentally, any material which is dangerous to humans as a result of inhalation, skin contact, or consumption is poisonous or toxic, and therefore requires special arrangements for the safe transport of dangerous goods by air.

Class 7 – Radioactive Material

Again, a class that might seem to require little elaboration, there are actually specific guidelines as to what constitutes radioactivity. The FAA stipulates that radioactive material is “any material containing radionuclides where both the activity concentration and the total activity in the consignment exceed the values specified.” These values are specified in an attached table, and instructions for determining the values of your own potentially hazardous material are also provided. By following this straightforward guidance, you can be certain as to whether the material that you need to transport is radioactive and, thus, constitutes dangerous goods.

Class 8 – Corrosive Material

Corrosive material “means a liquid or solid that causes irreversible damage to human skin at the site of contact within a specified period of time.” This damage is not limited to human skin, however, and the FAA goes on to note that a corrosive effect on steel or aluminum in a similar manner also constitutes a hazardous cargo. While the term “corrosive” might seem vague, as with radioactive material the FAA provides specific guidance as to exactly what constitutes corrosion, ensuring certainty for would-be shippers of dangerous cargo.

Again, though, the message is simple: if you feel that this class might fit your hazardous material, then trust your instincts – it probably does. In which case, be sure to contact a service provider that can guarantee the safe passage of your dangerous goods by air transportation.

Class 9 – Miscellaneous Hazardous Material

Miscellaneous hazardous material is a cover-all-bases attempt to include anything that the previous 8 classes of dangerous goods omit. The FAA’s definition admits this – “a material which presents a hazard during transportation, but which does not meet the definition of any other hazard class” – meaning that if you’ve considered the other 8 categories and are certain that what you’re sending doesn’t fall into them, that doesn’t necessarily preclude you from using a dangerous goods handler.

If the goods that you’re transporting aren’t suitable for inclusion in any of the other hazardous materials classes, but you’re still certain that they are dangerous, then Class 9 is where you should look to place them. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that you may need to provide more specifics and more detail relating to your cargo when you contact an IATA-certified hazardous materials handler.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

If nothing else, this article serves to highlight the complex web of regulations that surrounds air cargo, dangerous goods, and hazardous materials in the US. Given the extreme detail that characterizes FAA and IATA guidance, you could be forgiven for feeling lost at sea (or in air, as it were). That’s where we come in. The second you indicate that your industrial cargo qualifies as dangerous goods, you acknowledge that it needs expert handling. If that’s the case, keep it simple: trust the best.

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