Hazmat Freight: Guide, Rates & Freight Quotes


When you need to haul hazardous materials or waste, hazmat freight is the only legally viable option. Due to the inherent risks to humans, property, and the environment, the transport of hazardous materials with a hazmat truck or trailer is heavily regulated at a state, national, and even international level. 

In this article, we’ll detail the essentials of hazardous materials trucking, starting with what it is, to the different classes of hazardous materials, and important safety regulations and compliance requirements.

And for those readers interested in contracting a hazmat trucking company, we’ll cover essential information for hiring a hazardous materials freight company, guide you through what to expect with hazmat freight pricing, and even point you where to get a hazmat freight quote.

What is Hazmat Trucking?

Hazmat trucking, also known as hazardous materials trucking, involves transporting substances that pose potential risks to the health and safety of humans animals, property, or the environment. These materials require specialized freight handling, equipment, and adherence to strict safety regulations during transport.

Not only do a hazmat driver and their company need to be specially trained and certified to handle and transport these types of goods, but there are also unique labeling, placarding, reporting, and even routing requirements depending on the types of hazardous goods being transported and the locations through which they will move.

Sound complicated? It can be but don’t stress. That’s why we’ve created this article. 

So let’s dive in.


Common Cargo in Hazmat Trucking

Numerous industries are involved in the transport of hazmat materials, including:

  • chemical manufacturers, 
  • pharmaceutical companies, 
  • the oil and gas industries, 
  • construction companies, 
  • and even the automotive industry.

The most common forms of hazardous materials transported include:

Hazardous Chemicals: such as acids, solvents, and pesticides.

Radioactive Materials: used in medical, industrial, or research applications.

Explosives: including fireworks, ammunition, or industrial explosives.

Flammable Liquids and Gases: fuels, compressed gases, and other flammable liquids pose fire and explosion hazards during transport.

Biological Hazards: Infectious substances, biological samples, or medical waste.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the types of dangerous materials using hazmat freight, which would be too long for this article. Regardless of the type of materials shipped, each will fall into a class of hazardous materials, each with its unique requirements, which we’ll detail further in the next sections. 

Types of Trucks and Trailers Used in Hazmat Freight

This section will discuss the six most common types of trucks and trailers used in hazardous materials shipping. For each type, we’ll give you a brief description, and also their unique applications, advantages, and disadvantages.

Tanker Truck/Trailer:

A tanker truck, or trailer, is ideal for transporting bulk liquids (flammable, corrosive, etc.), gases (compressed, liquefied), and some dry bulk materials (hazardous powders). Examples include gasoline, propane, acids, and certain hazardous chemicals.


  • Large capacity: Efficiently transport large quantities of hazardous materials, ideal for bulk shipments.
  • Versatility: Various types of tankers can handle different materials, offering flexibility in cargo selection.


  • High initial cost: Tankers are generally more expensive than dry vans, requiring a higher investment.
  • Complex cleaning and maintenance: Specific procedures and trained personnel are necessary for proper cleaning and maintenance of tanks.
  • Specific loading/unloading procedures: Specialized equipment and trained personnel are often required for safe loading and unloading of hazardous materials.

Unique compliance requirements for tanker trucks and trailers in hazmat freight:

  • DOT registration: Tankers must be registered with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and meet specific construction standards based on the material being transported.
  • Specific tank construction: Tanks are designed and constructed based on the material's properties, ensuring compatibility and safety during transport.
  • Additional permits: Certain materials may require additional permits for transport, depending on their specific hazard classification.

Tanker trucks and trailers offer an efficient solution for transporting large quantities of bulk hazardous materials. However, their higher cost, complex operation, and stricter compliance requirements make them a specialized option compared to dry vans.

Dry Van Trailer

dry van trailer is suitable for transporting packaged hazardous materials in various forms (solids, liquids, and some gases in pressurized containers). Examples include paints, batteries, cleaning chemicals, and certain hazardous powders.


  • Widely available: Dry vans are the most common type of trailer, making them readily accessible for hazmat transportation.
  • Cost-effective: Compared to specialized trailers like tankers or reefers, dry vans offer a more cost-efficient option for smaller or less frequent hazmat shipments.
  • Weather protection: The enclosed design protects cargo from weather elements like rain, snow, and extreme temperatures.


  • Limited capacity: Compared to tankers, dry vans have a smaller capacity, making them less suitable for transporting bulk quantities of hazardous materials.
  • Not suitable for all materials: Not all types of hazardous materials can be transported in dry vans. Liquids requiring temperature control, some highly volatile or explosive materials, and materials requiring specific ventilation are not suitable for dry vans

Unique compliance requirements for dry van trailers in hazmat transportation:

  • Placarding: The trailer must display proper DOT placards on the front, rear, and both sides, clearly identifying the type and hazard class of the materials being transported.
  • Packaging and labeling: Individual items within the trailer must be properly packaged and labeled according to specific regulations based on the material classification. This ensures safe handling and identification during transport.
  • Segregation: Incompatible materials must be segregated within the trailer to prevent accidental mixing or reactions. This may involve using dividers, pallets, or specific loading patterns.
  • Ventilation: Depending on the specific materials being transported, additional ventilation may be required to maintain safe air quality within the trailer. This could involve opening vents or using specific ventilation equipment.

Dry vans offer a versatile and cost-effective solution for transporting a wide range of packaged hazmat materials, but it's crucial to ensure proper compliance with regulations and safe handling practices.

Flatbed Trailer:

flatbed trailer is suitable for certain types of packaged hazardous materials, secured cargo in appropriate containers (e.g., drums, crates), and oversized or oddly shaped items classified as hazardous. Some examples include transporting large machinery with hazardous components, packaged chemicals secured on pallets, and specific types of compressed gas contained in cylinders.


  • Versatility: Can accommodate various shapes and sizes of cargo compared to enclosed trailers.
  • Accessibility: Easier loading and unloading for specific items compared to enclosed trailers.


  • Limited protection: Cargo is exposed to weather elements and potential damage, requiring robust securing measures.
  • Compliance challenges: More complex securing and placarding requirements due to exposed cargo.
  • Not suitable for all hazmat: Liquids, certain gases, and materials requiring specific temperature control are generally not transported on flatbeds.

Unique compliance requirements for flatbed trailers in hazmat freight:

  • Securing: Cargo must be securely fastened using tie-downs, chains, and other approved methods to prevent shifting during transport.
  • Placarding: Placards identifying the hazardous materials must be displayed on the front, rear, and both sides of the trailer, and may be larger or require additional placards compared to enclosed trailers.
  • Packaging and labeling: Individual items on the flatbed must meet specific packaging and labeling regulations based on the material classification.
  • Driver training: Drivers transporting hazmat on flatbeds may require additional training in securing cargo and handling specific types of hazardous materials.

Intermodal Trailer

Similar to dry vans and tankers, intermodal trailers can transport various packaged hazardous materials (solids, liquids, some gases) and even bulk liquids in specialized tank containers.


  • Versatility: This can be used for both domestic and international transportation, offering flexibility across different modes (truck, rail, ship).
  • Efficiency: Intermodal transport can streamline the overall shipping process, potentially reducing costs and transit times.


  • Limited capacity: Compared to dedicated tankers, intermodal options for bulk liquids have smaller capacities.
  • Transfer considerations: Requires additional handling and potential delays during transfers between different transportation modes.
  • Compliance complexity: This may require adherence to regulations for various transportation modes (e.g., DOT for trucking, IMDG Code for maritime transport).

Unique compliance requirements for intermodal trailers in hazmat freight:

  • Standard compliance: Adhere to standard hazmat regulations based on the material (placarding, packaging, labeling, etc.).
  • Intermodal-specific requirements: May need additional documentation or specific securing methods depending on the mode of transport (e.g., securing cargo for rail transport).

Refrigerated Trailer (Reefer):

refrigerated trailer is ideal for temperature-sensitive hazardous materials, including:

  • Biological samples and specimens
  • Certain chemicals requiring specific temperature control
  • Some flammable liquids require specific temperature ranges


  • Temperature control: Maintains consistent temperatures throughout the journey, crucial for the stability and safety of sensitive hazardous materials.
  • Versatility: Can accommodate various types of temperature-controlled hazardous materials.


  • Higher fuel consumption: Refrigeration units require additional fuel, increasing transportation costs.
  • Additional maintenance: Refrigeration units require regular maintenance, adding to overall operational costs.

Unique compliance requirements for intermodal trailers in hazmat freight:

  • Standard hazmat compliance: Adhere to standard placarding, packaging, and labeling regulations for specific hazardous materials.
  • Temperature monitoring: Maintain and document proper temperatures throughout the journey, ensuring the material stays within the safe temperature range.

Bulk Trailer:

A bulk trailer is used for transporting dry bulk hazmat materials, such as powders or granules.

Advantages: Efficient for transporting large volumes of bulk hazmat materials. Reduces the need for packaging.

Disadvantages: Requires specialized loading and unloading equipment. Vulnerable to contamination and dust emissions.

Classes of Hazardous Materials in Hazmat Freight

All hazardous materials shipped via hazmat freight are categorized into nine different classes based on their specific hazards, as defined by the United Nations (UN) Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (Model Regulations).  It’s inherent that hazmat shippers understand which class their goods fall into, as there are unique require

These classes are further divided into divisions and packing groups based on the severity of the hazard, but detailing them to that level is beyond the scope of this article. 

 Here's an overview in table form of the general classes:




Examples of Divisions and Packaging Groups



Fireworks, ammunition, blasting agents



Compressed gases, liquefied gases, toxic gases


Flammable liquids

Gasoline, diesel fuel, paint thinner


Flammable solids, self-reactive substances, and desensitized explosives

Charcoal, matches, fireworks


Flammable liquids

Flammable liquids with a flash point greater than 35°C (95°F)


Substances that emit flammable gases when in contact with water

Sodium, calcium carbide


Oxidizing agents

Peroxides, nitrates, chlorates


Organic peroxides

Organic peroxide solutions, catalysts


Toxic substances

Pesticides, herbicides, poisons


Infectious substances

Medical waste, cultures, biological samples


Radioactive materials

Medical isotopes, industrial gauges, nuclear fuel



Acids, bases, batteries


Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles

Asbestos, lithium batteries, dry ice

What’s important for shippers to understand is that each class and division has unique transportation, handling, packaging, labeling, routing, and placarding requirements. While most companies are aware of the requirements of their freight, newer shippers may not. That’s why it’s so important to work with a reputable hazmat freight company to ensure your cargo has the appropriate hazmat placard correlating to the class in the table above. We’ll discuss these placards in more depth in the section below on safety measures and regulations in hazmat transport.

Hazmat Endorsement Requirements

When making a hazmat shipment, a hazmat-endorsed driver is required. This is a qualified commercial truck driver who has obtained additional certification to legally transport hazardous materials on public roads.

To earn a hazmat endorsement, drivers need to:

  • Pass a written knowledge exam demonstrating an understanding of hazmat regulations and safety procedures.
  • Undergo a background check conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Safety Measures and Regulations in Hazmat Transport

Hazmat trucking operations are subject to stringent safety regulations imposed by government agencies, including the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Key safety measures and regulations include:

Hazmat Endorsed Driver

When making a hazmat shipment, a hazmat-endorsed driver is required. This is a qualified commercial truck driver who has obtained additional certification to legally transport hazardous materials on public roads.

To earn a hazmat endorsement, drivers need to:

  • Pass a written knowledge exam demonstrating an understanding of hazmat regulations and safety procedures.
  • Undergo a background check conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Hazardous Materials Handling Training 

Hazmat truck drivers and personnel undergo specialized training and certification programs to safely handle, transport, and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.

Packaging and Labeling Requirements

Hazardous materials must be packaged, labeled, and marked according to specific regulations to ensure proper identification, containment, and handling during transport.

Emergency Response Planning 

Hazmat trucking companies develop comprehensive emergency response plans outlining procedures for addressing spills, leaks, accidents, or other incidents involving hazardous materials during transport.

Route Planning and Security

Hazmat transport routes are carefully planned to avoid densely populated areas, sensitive environmental areas, or high-risk locations prone to accidents or security threats.

Hazmat Placards and Labels

Hazmat Placards and Labels: Hazardous materials are required to be identified with placards on the truck or trailer, as well as labels and markings on the cargo, indicating the nature of the hazard, required precautions, and emergency response information, as mandated by regulatory agencies.

Permitting and Compliance Requirements for Hazmat Trucking

Hazmat trucking operations require permits and compliance with various regulatory requirements, including:

Hazmat Transportation Permits: Hazmat carriers must obtain permits from regulatory authorities to transport specific classes of hazardous materials, including explosives, radioactive substances, or certain chemicals.

Specialized Equipment and Training: Hazmat trucking companies must equip their vehicles with safety features, such as spill containment systems, fire suppression equipment, and emergency response kits, and ensure that drivers receive proper training in hazmat handling and transport.

Record Keeping and Reporting: Hazmat carriers are required to maintain detailed records of hazardous materials transported, including shipping documents, manifests, and incident reports, and comply with reporting requirements specified by regulatory agencies.

Hazmat Freight Rates

Hazmat freight pricing is more complex than standard freight due to the inherent risks involved. Here's a breakdown of key factors that influence the cost:

Type of Material: The level of danger posed by the material significantly impacts cost. Highly toxic, flammable, or explosive materials will be more expensive to transport.

Quantity: Shipping larger quantities of hazardous materials often benefits from economies of scale, bringing down the price per unit.

Origin and Destination: Distance plays a role, but so does the availability of qualified drivers and equipment on specific routes. Remote locations or specialized equipment needs can increase costs.

Packaging and Labeling: Improper packaging or labeling can lead to fines and delays, potentially incurring additional costs.

Compliance Requirements: Specific permits, placarding, or additional documentation for certain materials can add to the complexity and cost of transport.

Route Restrictions: Some materials may have restrictions on routes they can travel due to safety concerns, impacting pricing based on available routes.

Insurance: Carriers typically require higher insurance coverage for hazmat shipments, translating to a higher cost for the shipper.

Value of the Goods: High-value hazardous materials may command a premium for additional security measures during transport.

Hiring a Reliable Hazmat Freight Broker

When selecting a hazmat freight broker, you’ll receive the best value, more options, and the same expertise as working with a hazmat freight company by hiring a hazmat freight broker. 

As America’s learning hazmat freight broker, Guided Freight maintains relationships with all the leading hazmat freight trucking companies and drivers. This means we have a larger selection of trucks and trailers, and can find the best company for your needs.

But it’s gets even better. Due to the extremely high volume of hazmat freight we ship annually, we receive reduced rates from the companies and then pass on those savings to our customers. You still receive the logistical expertise of working directly with a hazmat freight company, but we manage all the legwork, coordination, and communication; you get to sit back and we’ll take care of the rest.

Whether you decide to work with us or someone else, here’s a list of the essential qualities you should be looking for:

  • Experience and Expertise: Choose a hazmat trucking company with extensive experience and expertise in handling hazardous materials, including proper packaging, labeling, and transport procedures.
  • Compliance and Safety Record: Verify that the company complies with all relevant safety regulations and has a proven track record of safety and compliance with hazmat transportation requirements.
  • Specialized Equipment and Training: Ensure that the company has the necessary equipment, vehicles, and trained personnel to handle hazardous materials safely and effectively.
  • Emergency Response Capabilities: Evaluate the company's emergency response capabilities, including procedures for addressing spills, leaks, or accidents involving hazardous materials during transport.
  • Insurance Coverage: Verify that the company carries adequate insurance coverage to protect against liabilities associated with hazmat transportation, including property damage, environmental cleanup costs, and personal injury claims.
  • Customer References and Reviews: Seek recommendations from other customers or industry partners who have experience working with the hazmat trucking company and read online reviews to gauge their reputation and reliability.
  • Cost and Pricing Transparency: Obtain detailed quotes from multiple hazmat trucking companies and compare pricing, services, and terms to ensure fair and competitive rates.

Get a Hazmat Freight Quote

If you need a hazmat freight quote, the team at Guided Freight is ready to assist. Once understand your unique cargo requirements, we’ll develop a detailed proposal as quickly as possible. Our specialty is managing complex logistical requirements, and we offer the largest inventory of trucks and trailers especially suited to hazmat freight.


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Frequently Asked Questions

When do you need a hazmat-endorsed driver?

You need a hazmat-endorsed driver whenever transporting placarded hazardous materials (classes 1-8) by road, ensuring safe handling of these potentially risky substances. 

You don't need a hazmat endorsement for transporting Class 9 materials domestically within the United States. These materials present a lesser risk compared to other hazard classes, so a standard commercial driver's license (CDL) is sufficient.

What is a safety data sheet?

A safety data sheet (SDS), also known as a material safety data sheet (MSDS) or product safety data sheet (PSDS), is a document that provides crucial information about the safe handling, storage, and use of a specific substance. It's a critical resource for anyone working with chemicals or hazardous materials to understand the potential risks and necessary precautions.

In hazmat freight specifically, a safety data sheet plays a critical role in ensuring the safe and compliant transportation of hazardous materials and serves two key purposes:

  1. Informs all parties involved: The SDS provides essential information about the hazardous material being shipped to everyone involved in the transportation chain, including:

Shippers: Understand the proper classification, packaging, labeling, and documentation requirements for the material.

Carriers: Familiarize themselves with the potential risks and necessary precautions for safe handling and transportation.

Emergency responders: Access crucial information in case of an accident or incident during transport, enabling them to respond effectively and protect themselves and the environment.

  1. Complies with regulations: Having a readily available SDS is mandatory for all shipments of hazardous materials by various regulations, including:

Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations in the United States.

International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code for maritime transport.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations for air transport.

What is a safety data sheet?

A hazmat endorsement is a special CDL qualification allowing drivers to transport hazardous materials safely, following strict regulations and demonstrating commitment to safety.

It is:

  • Earned through a knowledge exam and background check.

  • Enables drivers to transport various hazardous materials like flammable liquids, corrosives, and compressed gases.

  • Offers benefits like higher earning potential, specialized career opportunities, and recognition for safety commitment.

Written by Sam Boyd

A native of New Jersey, Sam started his logistics journey after college. He moved to Asia and founded Guided Imports, a global leader in freight forwarding from China to the US. 

Frustrated by the service provided by truck carriers once his customers' goods got stateside, he decided to launch Guided Freight, a freight brokerage built on trust in the USA.

If Sam had spare time, he'd probably still spend it working, And he loves connecting with other logistics professionals on LinkedIn.