Hazmat Air Shipping is A Whole Different Ballgame

Posted on 3/18/2021 by Roseanne Bottone and Roger Marks

It’s often said that baseball is a game of failure. Succeed just four out of ten times at the plate and you’re a Hall of Fame hitter.

Hazardous materials professionals are not so lucky. In our game, a single mistake can lead to supply chain delays, emergency releases, and costly civil penalties that increase every year. That’s especially true when you ship hazardous materials by air.

As we look forward to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, here are 9 ways the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) differ from the 49 CFR rules you’re familiar with if you ship hazmat by ground. While this is not an exhaustive list, it shows some of the most substantive differences between the air shipping regulations and the rules for hazmat ground shipments. 

1. Shipping paper format

When you ship hazardous materials by highway, US DOT allows you to use any format you like for shipping papers, provided you include all the required information.

Air shippers must use a specific, standardized form to document shipments—the Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods.

2. Employee training required more frequently  

Every employee who can impact the safety of hazardous materials in transportation must complete hazmat training within 90 days of their hire date and be re-trained at regular intervals. 

US DOT's 49 CFR regulations require training for all hazmat employees once every three years (49 CFR 172, Subpart H). For employees who prepare or offer hazmat air shipments, the IATA DGR requires re-training every 24 months (IATA DGR 1.5). 

Learn more about who needs training on the IATA DGR requirements in our Dangerous Goods Training FAQ. 

3. Punctuation counts

Shipping papers for ground shipments must include a basic description made up of four elements: the UN or ID number, the Proper Shipping Name, the Hazard Class, and the Packing Group (in that order).

Punctuation is optional under the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). You may put a comma between each of the basic description elements, but it’s not required. 

The air shipping regulations, on the other hand, require the use of commas to separate the elements of the basic description on the open format (computerized) version of the Shipper’s Declaration. You must also separate additional required information (e.g., the number and type of packages, quantity per package, and packing instruction) with double slashes (//) or a carriage return on this form.

4. Marking hazmat limited quantities

If you ship by ground, you probably know the limited quantity marking as a square-on-point that’s black at the top and bottom and white in the middle.

When you ship hazmat limited quantities by air, you use a different limited quantity marking. It’s similar to the black and white marking you know, but features a “Y” in the middle.
Limited quantity mark for ground transport Limited quantity mark for air transport

In addition, limited quantities shipped by air are not eligible for package marking and labeling reliefs granted to ground shipments. Limited quantity air shipments must be fully marked and labeled by the shipper as if they are fully regulated packages.

Learn more: The Shipping Limited Quantities and Consumer Commodities online course guides you through the requirements you must know to ship hazmat limited quantities by ground, air, and vessel. 

5. Quantity limits and indicating quantity

The per-package quantity limits for air shipments are much more restrictive than the limits for ground shipments.

Also, while US DOT requires the shipper to indicate the total quantity of material on shipping papers, the IATA DGR requires shippers to indicate the quantity “per package.”

6. Marking multiple Overpacks

If you offer multiple overpacks for air transport, each overpack must be marked with a unique alpha numeric indicator.

7. Supplementing generic shipping names

US DOT indicates a “generic” Proper Shipping Name (PSN) with a “G” in column 1 of the 49 CFR 172.101 Hazmat Table. When you use a generic PSN, you must supplement it with a technical name of the constituent that predominately contributes to the hazard.

Star indicates generic shipping names in IATA DGRThe same rule applies to air shipments, but the IATA DGR List of Dangerous Goods indicates generic shipping names with a star icon instead of a “G.” 

8. More on supplementing shipping names

When you supplement your PSN with a technical name, DOT allows you to place the technical name after the PSN or at the end of the basic description. Not so for the international air shipping rules.

The IATA DGR states that the technical or chemical group name must be placed immediately after the PSN (IATA DGR

9. Withstanding vibrations

No matter what mode of transportation you use, your hazardous materials must be packaged to withstand the normal “rigors of transportation” like bumpy roads or extreme weather.

When you ship by air, your package must be able to withstand vibrations that can result from 1g to 8g acceleration.

10. Extra Innings!

Here’s one more difference to keep in mind before we call it a ballgame: The IATA DGR requires you to indicate quantity using the metric system. It is a common error for shippers to mistakenly indicate quantity using gallons or pounds instead of liters or grams.

So brush up on your metric conversions—or keep a cheat sheet handy.

Now that you're familiar with some of the differences between 49 CFR and the IATA DGR, you are better prepared to knock your next shipping challenge out of the park! 

April 7: Live IATA DGR Hazmat Air Shipper Training

The average home run flies 400 feet. The average hazmat air shipment flies 1,300 miles.*  

Be confident your dangerous goods are packaged, marked, labeled, and documented in full compliance with the latest IATA DGR requirements for 2021. Build on your 49 CFR expertise and get required function-specific training when Lion presents the Hazmat Air Shipper Certification Webinar on April 7.

*Source: Latest US Census Commodity Flow Survey data.

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