PHMSA Hazmat Enforcement Discretion on Packaging Tape

Posted on 5/4/2022 by Roger Marks

Citing supply chain challenges, US DOT PHMSA announced a policy of enforcement discretion for shippers who close a hazardous materials package with an adhesive tape other than the tape called for in the package manufacturer’s closure instructions. 

By “enforcement discretion,” the Agency means that inspectors are unlikely to cite shippers for violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) by using a non-specified brand or type of tape—provided the tape used demonstrates an equal or better level of safety. 

If a shipper cannot obtain the tape called for by the manufacturer’s instructions due to supply chain disruptions, alternative tape may be used. The shipper must document any deviation used to close and secure the packaging and keep that notation on file with the manufacturer’s written packing instructions. Instructions for closing the package with the alternative tape must be included.  

The notice of enforcement discretion is effective through August 31, 2022.

In PHMSA’s words:
“PHMSA will exercise regulatory enforcement discretion for an individual who, due to the supply chain shortages identified above, affixes to a packaging of hazardous materials a non-specified adhesive tape closure on UN Performance Oriented Packagings, provided the non-specified tape is:
  1. The same material as the tape in the original packaging test report;
  2. is capable of demonstrating no diminished capabilities in yield strength, thickness, ductility, width, length, or adhesive properties; and
  3. is compatible with the packaging. “
[05/02/22] Notice of Enforcement Discretion Regarding Packaging Tape

Why The Type of Tape Matters

UN rated packages are subject to rigorous testing before they can be marked with an approved UN marking. To ensure the package performs up to its tested rating, manufacturers provide detailed closure instructions with every package.

The Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) require shippers to follow those closure instructions, down to the last detail. That sometimes includes using the exact type of adhesive tape that the manufacturer used during package testing.

Why? Because the package passed performance testing using a specific type of tape. If a different type of tape had been used, the package may have failed the test. To ensure the package performs up to its rated capacity during transportation, shippers must use the same tape the manufacturer used.

Is Wider Tape a “Change in Design”?

The tape used to close the package is part of the package design. Therefore, using a type of tape not specified in the manufacturer instructions can constitute a “new package design.”   
If a package calls for a two-inch-wide strip of “XYZ tape” to secure the box, then using a one-inch-wide strip of XYZ tape is a violation of the packaging rules. Even using two one-inch-wide strips is a violation.   

But what if a shipper uses a four-inch-wide strip of XYZ tape? In 2018, PHMSA released an interpretation to clarify that using a wider strip of tape is not necessarily a violation of the HMR.

“Increasing the width of the tape from that specified in the packaging test report and closure notifications does not constitute a change in design,” PHMSA said in 2018, “provided the tape is otherwise of the same specification originally tested.” [Letter to Ben Barrett, 5/16/18].

To summarize: When you ship a hazardous material in a fiberboard box, the box must stay closed during the entire cycle of transportation. To make sure the package is securely closed, and stays closed, packaging manufacturers provide detailed closure instructions with every UN rated package.

Until August 31, shippers struggling to obtain the exact right type of specified tape for a UN rated package may use an alternative tape. The alternative tape used must provide an equal or better level of transportation safety, and any variation from the manufacturer’s instructions must be documented.  

PHMSA Hazmat Enforcement Discretion on Packaging Tape

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 Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego, Denver, Nashville, Orlando, Dallas, and Houston this year,  

Upcoming Webinars

Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)        May 17–18
Hazmat Vessel Shipper Certification (IMDG) May 4
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: DOT compliance, hazmat enforcement, hazmat packaging, hazmat shipping, UN rated packaging

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

I will never go anywhere, but to Lion Technology.

Dawn Swofford

EHS Technician

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

Ian Martinez

Hazmat Shipping Professional

Lion's course was superior to others I have taken in the past. Very clear in the presentation and the examples helped to explain the content presented.

George Bersik

Hazardous Waste Professional

Well designed and thorough program. Excellent summary of requirements with references. Inclusion of regulations in hard copy form, as well as full electronic with state pertinent regulations included is a great bonus!

Oscar Fisher

EHS Manager

I really enjoy your workshops. Thank you for such a great program and all the help Lion has provided me over the years!

George Chatman

Hazardous Material Pharmacy Technician

The instructor does a great job at presenting material in an approachable way. I have been able to save my company about $30,000 in the last year with what I have learned from Lion!

Curtis Ahonen

EHS&S Manager

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

The instructor was very dedicated to providing a quality experience. She did her best to make sure students were really comprehending the information.

Stephanie Venn

Inventory Control Specialist

I was able to present my scenario to the instructor and worked thru the regulations together. In the past, I attended another training firm's classes. Now, I have no intention of leaving Lion!

Diana Joyner

Senior Environmental Engineer

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

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

What to do before, during, and after a RCRA hazardous waste inspection to defend your site from rising State and Federal penalties.

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.