Safe and Sound: Hazmat Transportation Security

When hazardous materials are transported, everyone involved is responsible for keeping them from falling into the wrong hands. Department of Transportation regulations require shippers, carriers, drivers, and receivers to take proper security precautions.

Hazardous materials are vital to our industrial economy. Unfortunately, they can be used by terrorists to cause death and destruction. That’s why you need to make sure your employees—from top to bottom—know and follow security measures to keep hazardous materials from falling into the wrong hands.


The potential for terrorists to use hazardous materials to inflict damage on Americans is not a threat that should be taken lightly. Methods terrorists might use include:

  • Stealing hazardous materials in transit by road, rail, or sea

  • Crashing shipments of hazardous materials into large buildings, government installations, or historic monuments

  • Sabotaging a chemical plant, storage facility, or tank farm

  • Using hazardous chemical shipments to damage or destroy bridges, tunnels, etc.

  • Poisoning drinking water supplies

And it’s hard to know where the threat will come from. There is no reliable terrorist profile. Terrorists can look like anyone.

  • Internal terrorists, for example, may be disgruntled employees or new or part-time employees.

  • External terrorists may have lived in a community for years and be accepted as neighbors, co-workers, or even friends.

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Shipper Precautions

Shippers should take the following precautions:

  • Store materials in areas protected by alarms and surveillance cameras.

  • Perform frequent audits and inspections to account for all materials.

  • Allow only authorized personnel in Hazmat storage areas, and be sure all employees entering these areas have proper identification.
  • Follow the emergency plans developed in coordination with local fire officials and homeland security planners.
  • Instruct employees not to give shipment information to anyone unless they can identify them and understand their need to know.
  • Require employees to be alert and report suspicious behavior to a supervisor.

Carrier Security

Carriers also need to take precautions and:

  • Select the shortest possible safe route.
  • Try to avoid high population areas and rush-hour traffic.
  • Designate rest stops with good lighting where drivers can maintain visual contact with their vehicle while getting food.
  • Avoid routes with tunnels and bridges whenever possible.

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Driver Awareness

Drivers need to protect themselves and their cargo. They should:

  • Inspect their rig and cargo before leaving the facility and again at rest stops.

  • Keep their rig and cargo locked and secure at all times.

  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • Never talk to strangers about their cargo or destination.

  • Report delays to their dispatcher and to the designated receiver.

  • Check in with their dispatcher on a regular basis—or use a vehicle with GPS.

  • Know what to do in an emergency such as a leak or spill.

Receiver Security Rules

Receivers of hazardous materials should always:

  • Inspect the carrier’s identification, shipping records, and materials upon delivery.

  • Report differences between the material being delivered and the accompanying paperwork.

  • Make sure hazardous materials are not left unattended at loading docks.

  • Move such shipments promptly to secure storage areas.

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