Hazardous materials (also known as HAZMAT) and waste in the construction industry can be created during demolitions, renovations, expansions, and other common jobs & contracts. Any hazardous materials or waste need to be stored and transported safely before a job can be finished.

Many people don’t understand the importance of safely handling and transporting hazardous materials & waste to a proper disposal facility. This article is being provided to give you a basic understanding of the hazardous materials transportation process.

Please note that these transportation basics all concern the removal and transportation of materials to and from a worksite–not transportation around a worksite.

What are Hazardous Materials & Waste?

The definition of hazardous materials & waste came from the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) of 1975. This federal law defined hazardous materials as any “particular quantity or form” of a material that “may pose an unreasonable risk to health and safety or property.”

The four key provisions of the act covered:

  • Procedures and Policies
  • Material Designations & Labeling
  • Packaging Requirements
  • Operational Rules

Hazardous materials & waste must be properly labeled according to material classifications. There are too many to go over in a short article like this one, but things like US Department of transportation orange diamonds (with a classification icon in the middle), National Fire Protection Agency red diamonds (flammable or combustible contents), and other shipping designations designate what hazardous materials are allowed to be shipped in a given container.

Moving Hazardous Materials

The EPA defines a hazardous waste transporter as “individuals or entities that move the hazardous waste from one site to another by highway, rail, water, or air.” Hazardous material & waste transport concerns moving materials from where they were produced to a facility where they can be safely disposed of.

Not just anyone can move hazardous materials & waste. Certification is required from the EPA, including having an up-to-date EPA identification number. EPA IDs apply to all approved transportation vehicles at an entire company. This means that an approved transportation contractor will have one EPA number for their entire fleet of hazardous materials vehicles.

The EPA estimates that around 50% of transported hazardous materials contain corrosive or flammable petroleum-based products. The other 50% can be made up of any of the nearly 3,000 other chemicals covered by the HMTA. Materials like asbestos, lead-based paints, and other old standard construction materials are covered by the HMTA*.

Regulations from the HMTA apply to the following people, parties, facilities, and transportation:

  • Any party responsible for the transportation of hazardous waste
  • Any party responsible for the production of hazardous waste as defined by the HMTA
  • Any party responsible for testing transportation methods and products (containers, packaging, or other hazardous material containers)
  • Any party responsible for installation or repairs of hazardous waste transportation vehicles, storage, or other HMTA-specified objects
  • Any party that accepts hazardous waste to be disposed of or recycled
  • Any party that makes shipments containing hazardous waste for commercial use

An academic study conducted by Northwestern University in 1993 estimated that as many as 500,000 shipments of hazardous materials and waste are made every day in the United States. 

*Note: lead paint waste produced by a homeowner due to personal work is exempt from this, as well as contractors who are RRP (Renovation, Repair, and Painting) certified. Please call your local fire department for more on safe at-home disposal practices.

Hazardous Materials & Waste Truck Transportation

The most common way hazardous materials & waste are moved in the US is via truck. Trucking contractors and drivers involved in the transportation of hazardous waste & materials must have an EPA identification as well as several other certifications from various government agencies (local, state, & federal laws apply).

The vast majority of hazardous waste & material shipments are conducted by truckers and trucking contractors. Any agency or driver transporting shipments of hazardous waste or materials is required to comply with laws and policies from several agencies. OSHA lists the following as required compliances for any person or contractor transporting HAZMAT:


  • 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response
  • 1910.134, Respiratory protection

OSHA Training Requirements

  • 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response
  • 1910.134, Respiratory Protection
  • 49 CFR 172, Hazardous Materials Table, Special Provisions, Hazardous Materials Communications, Emergency Response Information, and Training Requirements

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • 40 CFR 110, Discharge of Oil
  • 40 CFR 116, Designation of Hazardous Substances

US Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • 49 CFR 172, Hazardous Materials Table, Special Provisions, Hazardous Materials Communications, Emergency Response Information, and Training Requirements
  • 49 CFR 173, Shipper’s–General Requirements for Shipments and Packaging
  • 49 CFR 177, Carriage by Public Highway. Section 177.823 applies to the movement of motor vehicles in emergency situations
  • 49 CFR 397, Transportation of Hazardous Materials; Driving and Parking Rules

Please see the OSHA website for more information on the individual policies.

Hazardous Materials & Waste Water and Rail Transportation

Hazardous materials may be moved by road, rail, water, or air, but the EPA specifically notes differences between water and rail transportation. Required records, manifests, and other documentation differs from port to port, county to county, and state to state. Because of this, the EPA requires special manifests and documentation for hazardous waste transported via water or rail.

EPA regulations state “Water and rail transporters must comply with the directions on the manifest, obtain an EPA ID number, and be listed on the manifest like highway and air shipments. However, the manifest is not required to physically accompany these shipments at all times. Instead, water and rail transporters can use another shipping document instead of the manifest, provided that it contains the same information as the manifest.”

Strict dating regulations are in place to prove that hazardous waste shipments are documented properly and on schedule. Signatures are required from the initial transporter of any hazardous materials and from a disposal facility manager at the time of delivery.

Hazardous Waste Accident Reporting

Accidents and discharge from any contractor or individual transporting hazardous materials or wastes must be reported in accordance with specific policies and procedures. Some hazardous materials and waste are more dangerous than others and can pose an immediate risk to public health. 

The EPA notes that “if a transporter discharges or spills hazardous waste, he or she is required to take appropriate, immediate action to protect human health and the environment such as notifying local authorities or diking the discharge area. If immediate removal of the waste is necessary to protect human health or the environment, then a federal, state or local official may authorize the removal of the waste.” Most large municipalities have HazMat Response teams and equipment that can contain and mitigate small to medium size releases.

The US Department of Transportation requires reports about serious accidents. USDOT also requires transporters to immediately notify the National Response Center when an accident that results in leaked hazardous materials occurs. Contractors or individuals responsible for accidents or spills may be required to clean up or contract a certified party for clean up. Special Response Teams are required for certain releases to the environment, for instance, radioactive materials have different procedures than chemical spills.

Hazardous Materials Transporter & Contractor Responsibilities

Aside from following local, state, and federal regulations, contractors and transporters of hazardous materials & waste are responsible for some things on their end. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, contractors and transporters are responsible for the following:

Shippers of Hazardous Materials

  • Determining whether a material meets the definition of a hazardous material
  • Proper shipping name
  • Class/Division specifications
  • Proper identification numbers
  • Warning labels for hazardous materials
  • Proper packaging
  • Marking & designation
  • Employee Training
  • Proper shipping paperwork
  • Emergency response information
  • Proper certifications
  • Compatibility
  • Blocking and bracing shipped materials correctly
  • Placarding when necessary
  • Security Plans
  • Incident Reporting

Hazardous Materials Carriers Responsibilities

  • Having the proper shipping paperwork or documentation
  • Correct placards and vehicle markings
  • Supervision of loading and unloading duties
  • HAZMAT transportation compatibility
  • Proper blocking and bracing of all HAZMAT materials
  • Any necessary incident reporting
  • Security plan
  • Training

Overseeing compliance with all of the things listed above is the bare minimum responsibility of any party involved in the transportation of hazardous materials and waste. Many contractors have more policies and procedures than listed above–make sure you know what policies are required by any company you are using to transport HAZMAT. Failure to comply with the proper procedures can result in massive fines and potential jail time.

Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources

For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos information, remediation, or removal check the resources below:

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