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Some people are born to be hazmat haulers. Some aspire to it. And yet others have it thrust upon them. Whichever category you (or your hazmat guru) fall into, be advised that the training and certification requirements are formidable. And there’s good reason for that.

What do hazmat haulers do?

They don’t just haul.

  • Beyond handling hazardous materials that are a danger to themselves, others, and the environment, a competent hazmat hauler must have the cognitive wherewithal to adjust routes on-the-fly according to road conditions, traffic considerations, and time requirements. (Consider: some hazmat becomes more unstable over time, so prompt delivery to the prescribed treatment facility is crucial.)
  • A myriad of federal, state, and local authorities require that hazmat drivers carefully record the journey as their loads transit from the generator site to the treatment facility, thereby documenting proper adherence to all safety protocols.
  • In the event of an accident, a hazmat driver is usually the first trained person on the scene. He or she must use skilled judgement to mitigate the situation in advance of first responders. (For obvious reasons, many hazmat drivers are required by their employers to have general first-aid certification.)
  • And then there’s the security thing. The risk of foreign yahoos hijacking hazmat loads for use as terrorist weapons is all too real. A hazmat hauler needs to have good judgement and a healthy respect for security protocols.

In sum, you just can’t throw a few barrels of oozing hazmat into the back of your F-350 dually and cart it off to the nearby treatment facility. The government frowns on that. The facility won’t take it. And it’s bad for the truck’s paintjob. And speaking of government…

Ever hear of the FMSCA?

In order to become certified as a hazmat hauler, besides the EPA and the DOT, you need to pay attention to something called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, known to hazmat‑transportation aficionados as the FMSCA.

A visit to the FMSCA website will enlighten you to the effect that:

“No person may offer or accept a hazardous material for transportation in commerce unless that person is registered in conformance with subpart G of Part 107 of [Chapter (49 CFR 171.2(a)]…and the hazardous material is properly classed, described, packaged, marked, labeled, and in condition for shipment as required or authorized…”

At the same website, you’ll be additionally edified that the FMSCA has friends in high places. Consider this quote from the same website we just mentioned: and I quote:

“Special agents of the Department of Transportation cannot be denied reasonable access to those areas that fall within the official scope of their duties. The Secretary has delegated this authority to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Federal Railway Administration (FRA), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the United States Coast Guard (USCG).”

Clearly, you should proceed with caution. Because while it’s crucial to get expert advice when dealing with the EPA by its lonesome self, you certainly don’t want to wing it when you’re under the agency’s humorless scrutiny in combination with that of the DOT, the FMSCA, and more. So onward we go…

Step 1. Get a CDL-Class A License

As a first requirement, a hazmat hauler must have an active Commercial Driver’s License (CDL- Class A)—and a safe driving record. If you or your employee haven’t this license already—understand that (surprise!) regulations for its acquisition aren’t consistent from state to state.

Most states, however, require a learning “permit” period during which a CDL aspirant drives with an experienced CDL holder in the vehicle. In due course, the applicant must pass a driving skills test, usually administered by the state DOT.

Step 2. Get some Hazmat-specific training

If a person has an active CDL-Class A, safe driving record, and is 21 years of age or older, he or she is duly qualified to make application for hazmat certification. Additional requirements include:

  • Proof of citizenship (or legal residence)
  • Medical and optometric exams
  • Passing a hazmat knowledge test

Step 3. Did we mention the Transportation Security Administration?

Yes. That Transportation Safety Administration: those fast, friendly, and efficient people at our nation’s airports who add so much to the flying experience. As part of the hazmat-hauler application process, they will conduct a background check.

It doesn’t matter if the most dishonest thing you’ve ever done in your whole life is throw away a yogurt carton instead of recycling it: the TSA will take up to 60 days to make sure that your intentions toward hazardous waste are fully honorable. Which, let’s face it, is a good thing.

To save you time, we should mention here that you needn’t bother applying for a hazmat‑hauler certification if your criminal record includes terrorism, espionage, treason, violent crimes, or using plastic straws.

Okay, we made up the part about plastic straws.

Step 4. Getting tanked

If your particular kind of hazmat is characterized by huge quantities of volatile substances that need to be transported by tanker, another endorsement is needed, which requires its own knowledge test.

As a point of bureaucratic interest, a CDL-Class A will be somewhat incongruously coded with the letter “N” for “tanker” endorsement; but if said license is also eligible for hazmat (Code H), then it will be coded with an “X.” (You might wonder, Why not HN? But ours is not to wonder why…)

Of course, state requirements for transporting HazMat differ. You can check the laws for your particular state here.

The upshot

Transporting hazardous waste from here to there is fraught with legal requirements that must be considered before the first barrel is placed on a flatbed and sent offsite. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse; and mistakes might well be construed as criminal intent.

The featured image used in this blog post is by Peter Kaminski and can be found here.