Which Shipping Carriers and Services Support Dangerous Goods

If you are an ecommerce business with products like perfume, consumer electronics (especially with lithium ion batteries), health and beauty products, or other goods that may be classified as dangerous goods, you will need to ensure you choose the right shipping carrier and shipping service to support your products.  

Not all services will ship dangerous goods or products with hazardous materials. Some shipping carriers are better suited for handling specific classifications of freight.  

Are my products classified as dangerous goods? Your Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) given to you by your manufacturer will tell you the details to accurately classify your products.  

Who Regulates Dangerous Goods Shipping? 

There are a few governing bodies that set the standards for shipping, especially when it comes to regulating the transport of dangerous goods and hazardous materials. Here are the main players in regulation for both US domestic and international shipping: 

  • DOT—The US Department of Transportation (DOT) responsible for developing and issuing all Hazardous Materials regulations for domestic and foreign transportation and commerce. 
  • PHMSA—the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is a group under the DOT dedicated specifically to regulate handling of hazardous materials.   
  • IATA—the International Air Transport Association is a global trade association that brings together the world’s airlines to help regulate and standardize airline industry.  

If you are shipping internationally you may need to look for country or region-specific guidelines. For example, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) governs the transport of hazardous materials and dangerous goods in the EU and Europe. This organization is responsible for the ADR, or Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, also known as the ADR treaty.  

Can I Ship DG via Air Freight? 

When choosing your shipping service one thing you’ll need to decide is the method of transport—air or ground shipping, or ocean if it’s international.  

Ground shipping is the least restricted mode when it comes to shipping dangerous goods. More ground shipping services are available for special handling. Air freight is the most heavily restricted for hazardous materials. This is because many dangerous goods are combustible or toxic and the change in air pressure is sometimes a safety trigger.  

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Does USPS Ship Dangerous Goods? 

The United States Postal Service allows hazardous materials and dangerous goods, although there are some restrictions, USPS is a reliable shipper for most goods that are classified as dangerous goods.    

Items that are prohibited from shipping with USPS include explosives, gasoline, air bags, and marijuana. Restricted items include matches, aerosols, live animals, tobacco products, glues, perishable items, hand sanitizer, lithium batteries, and more.  

Here is a full list of both prohibited and restricted items when using USPS to transport goods domestically.  

With international shipping, the list of prohibited goods is much longer. Here is a full list of both prohibited and restricted goods for USPS international shipping 

Air freight is more commonly restricted when it comes to shipping hazardous materials. USPS has a full table describing the mailability of every type of hazardous material, it lists out if air freight is possible, and the classification of each material.  

Does FedEx Ship Dangerous Goods?  

FedEx offers a wide range of shipping options for dangerous goods and hazardous materials. There is mandatory training for any shipper who wants to transport the types of hazardous materials they accept.  

There are limitations when shipping to Hawaii, Alaska, and Canada, plus weight and size restrictions

FedEx provides a full hazardous materials shipping guide that details their list of prohibited and restricted materials, as well as training and documentation for dangerous goods shipping.  

Visit the FedEx hazardous materials page to get more resources on shipping dangerous goods with this carrier.

Does DHL Ship Dangerous Goods? 

DHL is a popular domestic and international carrier with capabilities to ship dangerous goods and hazardous materials.  

Some important distinctions about shipping DG through DHL include: not all goods are accepted by DHL Express, pre-approval is mandatory before shipping, there may be additional charges for DG shipments.  

Read the full resource page for shipping dangerous goods and hazardous materials with DHL.  

Here is a list of prohibited and restricted items when using DHL as your shipping carrier.  

Does UPS Ship Dangerous Goods?

Using UPS to ship dangerous goods and hazardous materials shippers are obligated to follow many of the same requirements.  

UPS has mandatory hazardous materials training prior to shipping DG with them. Read the UPS list of prohibited and restricted goods page to verify your product viability with the carrier.  

The carrier can ship DG both domestically and internationally with proper approval, correct labeling, and handling documentation. See the UPS hazardous materials shipping page for many resources on what qualifies as dangerous goods, carrier and service variations, and how to ship DG items through UPS.  

Penalties and Fees for Noncompliance When Shipping Dangerous Goods  

If you ship products classified as dangerous goods, proper labeling and documentation is critical. If dangerous goods are mislabeled your shipping carrier may apply heavy fines or suspend service all together. Be sure to follow the specific steps to ship your dangerous goods products. 

Bottom Line 

Getting your shipping classifications correct, whether for domestic or international shipments, is critical to understanding the best carrier and shipping service to support your ecommerce business. If you already outsource fulfillment and logistics to a 3PL partner, expect help when understanding which shipping service is best for your specific products.  

Any goods that contain hazardous materials or are classified as dangerous goods will need special labeling and may incur additional shipping surcharges. Don’t get stuck overpaying, leverage your 3PL to optimize for the right fit.