PHMSA Clarifies Criminal Enforcement Procedures

Posted on 5/16/2022 by Roseanne Bottone

Hazardous materials inspectors with US DOT PHMSA may cite shippers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders for two types of regulatory violations: civil and criminal (i.e., “willful”).
In the Federal Register on May 11, PHMSA published a Final Rule to clarify that hazardous materials and pipeline inspectors may report actual or possible criminal activity to the US DOT Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Because the rulemaking impacts PHMSA’s internal enforcement procedures only, it was published without public notice or comment.
While the rulemaking does not directly impact the regulated community, shippers and other stakeholders should know the difference between a “criminal” or “willful” violation of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) and a civil violation.

What is a “Criminal” Hazmat Violation?

A “criminal” or “willful” violation occurs when a person knowingly disregards legal rules and regulations, or acts with indifference, malice, recklessness, or purposeful ignorance of requirements. In other words, the violation is made with intent.
The following actions constitute a criminal violation:
  1. To knowingly alter, remove, deface, destroy, or otherwise tamper with any marking, label, placard, or description on a document required by Federal hazardous materials transportation law or regulations.
  2. To knowingly alter, remove, deface, destroy, or otherwise unlawfully tamper with a package, container, motor vehicle, rail car, aircraft, or vessel used to transport hazardous materials.  
  3. To willfully or recklessly violate a requirement of a hazardous material law, regulation, order, special permit, or approval.
The consequences of a criminal violation can include up to five years of incarceration and monetary penalties of $250,000 per incident (for individuals) and $500,000 per incident (for corporations).
For criminal violations involving a release of hazardous materials that results in death or injury, the maximum term of imprisonment is ten years (see 49 CFR 107.333).

What is a “Civil” Hazmat Violation?

Civil violations, on the other hand, are committed unintentionally. Those responsible for compliance with US DOT regulations are only human, and we all make mistakes. Civil violations result from errors, unintentional omissions, or an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of the regulations.
The maximum civil penalty for a hazmat shipping violation is now $89,678 per day, per violation. For violations that result in death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property destruction, the penalty can reach $209,249 per day, per violation. These civil penalty amounts increase annually to keep pace with inflation.
A list of frequently cited hazmat shipping violations—and the recommended baseline penalty amount for each—can be found in the HMR at 49 CFR Part 107, Subpart D, Appendix A.

Instructor-Led DOT Hazmat Training 

Join a workshop or webinar for live, instructor-led training to ship hazardous materials in full compliance with the latest US and international regulations for ground, air, and vessel shippers. 

The two-day Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT) Workshop comes to San Diego, Denver, Nashville, Orlando, Dallas, and Houston this year,  

Upcoming Webinars

Recurrent Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)      June 6
Hazmat Air Shipper Certification (IATA) June 7
Hazmat Vessel Shipper Certification (IMDG) June 8
Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)  June 13–14  
Shipping Lithium Batteries June 28

Prefer to train at your own pace? Choose an interactive, mobile-ready online course to ship hazardous materials, manage hazardous waste, prepare for emergencies, and comply with OSHA workplace safety regulations. Visit

Tags: fines and penalties, hazardous materials regulations, hazmat shipping

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

I can take what I learned in this workshop and apply it to everyday work and relate it to my activities.

Shane Hersh

Materials Handler

Excellent. I learned more in two days with Lion than at a 5-day program I took with another provider.

Francisco Gallardo

HES Technician

The price was reasonable, the time to complete the course was manageable, and the flexibility the online training allowed made it easy to complete.

Felicia Rutledge

Hazmat Shipping Professional

This training broke down the regulations in an easy-to-understand manner and made them less overwhelming. I now feel I have the knowledge to make more informed decisions.

Amanda Oswald

Shipping Professional

I will never go anywhere, but to Lion Technology.

Dawn Swofford

EHS Technician

If I need thorough training or updating, I always use Lion. Lion is always the best in both instruction and materials.

Bryce Parker

EHS Manager

My experience with Lion classes has always been good. Lion Technology always covers the EPA requirements I must follow.

Steven Erlandson

Environmental Coordinator

Convenient; I can train when I want, where I want.

Barry Cook

Hazmat Shipping Professional

The course was very well structured and covered the material in a clear, concise manner.

Ian Martinez

Hazmat Shipping Professional

My experience with Lion training, both online and in the classroom, is that they are far better organized and provide a better sequential explanation of the material.

Robert Roose

Manager, Dangerous Goods Transportation

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Use this guide as a quick reference to the most common HAZWOPER questions, and get course recommendations for managers and personnel who are in need of OSHA-required HAZWOPER training.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.