If you’re importing hazardous materials to Hawaii, you likely know that this type of cargo requires special handling while traveling via air freight and ocean freight.

However, did you realize that those requirements continue once the cargo arrives in Hawaii? As your hazardous goods are traveling around the island via truck, they also need careful consideration to ensure both safe transport and compliance with regulations.

If you’re importing hazardous materials to Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get your cargo safely to its final destination.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the regulations around hazardous materials, as well as what’s considered hazardous. (Some importers are surprised by the materials that fall under this classification!)

Regulations Governing Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are regulated on the national level by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

PHMSA classifies hazardous materials into nine categories for domestic transportation:

  • Class 1 – Explosives
  • Class 2 – Flammable gas, non-flammable gas, poison gas
  • Class 3 – Flammable and combustible liquids
  • Class 4 – Flammable solids, spontaneously combustible, dangerous when wet
  • Class 5 – Oxidizers, organic peroxides
  • Class 6 – Poisonous materials, infectious substances
  • Class 7 – Radioactive materials
  • Class 8 – Corrosive materials
  • Class 9 – Miscellaneous hazardous materials (which includes things like lithium batteries)

Each class of hazardous materials comes with its own shipping and handling procedures, as well as labeling requirements, including placards like the ones you’ll see below:

If you’re familiar with the items you’re shipping, you likely already know what hazard class they fall into. You might even be aware of the requirements for labeling and shipping. Most importantly, you probably already have the necessary documentation ready for your forwarder or carrier. (More on what’s required below!)

However, some importers get caught off-guard by what’s considered hazardous—especially if they’re importing a certain type of cargo for the first time.

What’s Considered “Hazardous” May Surprise You

When many people think of hazardous materials, items like gasoline, fireworks, industrial chemicals, and fertilizers may come to mind. However, there are a number of items that are considered hazardous that are less obvious.

For example:

  • Fire extinguishers are categorized as hazardous materials in Class 2: Gases. This class includes three categories: 1) flammable gas, 2) poisonous gas, and 3) non-flammable, non-poisonous gas. (By the way, fire extinguishers fall under category #3: non-flammable and non-poisonous.)
  • Perfumes at quantity are also considered hazardous. These flammable liquids, along with nail polish, are placed in Class 3: Flammable Liquids. Small amounts may not require special handling, but large amounts of perfume, nail polish, and other cosmetic goods can be considered hazardous.
  • If you’ve ever tried to ship a portable phone charger to Hawaii, you’re probably aware that lithium-ion batteries come with shipping restrictions. These fall under Class 9: Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials.
  • A number of household goods in larger quantities, such as bleach (Class 8: Corrosives), are considered hazardous. Others you might not have thought of include insect spray (Class 6: Toxic Substances and Infectious Substances) and compressed air canisters (Class 2: Gases), which many people use to clean computer keyboards.

If you have any questions on whether or not your shipment will be considered hazardous, you’ve got a couple of options:

  • Ask the supplier or manufacturer for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), sometimes simply called the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This will include a host of information on your product, including the UN number, the hazard class, and proper shipping and handling information.
  • You can also talk to your freight forwarder or carrier for specific advice in terms of shipping and handling.
  • Finally, you can also review the hazardous materials table found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations yourself.

Next, you might be curious why these classifications are so important, even if your items are just making a short journey from Honolulu Harbor to your warehouse. Let’s dive a little deeper.

HazMat Handling for Over-the-Road Freight in Hawaii

Whoever is trucking your hazardous materials around Hawaii will likely ask you a lot of questions about your shipment. (More on the documentation you’ll need to provide next!)

There are a number of reasons behind this, including:

The Need to Segregate on Delivery

Just as with air and ocean freight, over-the-road hazardous freight has to be segregated carefully to keep reactive items away from each other. For example, it’s pretty easy to see why Class 1 explosives shouldn’t travel in the same truck as Class 3 flammable liquids or Class 4 flammable solids.

By disclosing and documenting your hazardous materials, your trucking provider will ensure your materials are properly separated out for safe delivery.

Proper Placarding in Case of Emergency

As trucks are transporting hazardous materials throughout the Hawaiian Islands, it’s crucial they have the correct placards in place. Consider the worst case scenario: What happens if a truck gets into an accident along its route? Thanks to the prominent placards, emergency responders will know exactly how to handle the situation.

For example, let’s say a truck carrying a corrosive chemical gets into an accident along H-1, causing an accidental spillage. The correct placard will let everyone near the accident know that the chemical could damage any vehicle that drives through the scene.

By giving your trucking provider all the data they ask for, they can then ensure that your shipment is properly placarded—just in case.

Some Shipments Require a CDL-Licensed Driver

Finally, any driver moving hazardous cargo that weighs more than 1,000 pounds needs to have a CDL (commercial driver’s license). Your trucking company will, of course, make the correct driver assignments—once, of course, you share the documentation around your hazardous shipment.

And speaking of documentation . . .

Documentation for Transporting Hazardous Materials

When you ship a hazardous material to Hawaii, each carrier that handles the shipment will require specific documentation in order to ensure that your cargo is labeled and handled properly during its journey.

At Royal Hawaiian, when we move hazardous materials over the road in Hawaii, we ask shippers for:

  • The UN number (United Nations number) and hazard class for the material
  • The UN proper shipping name
  • The packaging group

All of this information can be found on the item’s MSDS/SDS, in Section 14 – Transport Information.

If you moved the item to Hawaii via ocean freight, you’ll also find this information in
the Hazardous Declaration within your ocean freight paperwork. You’ll just need to make sure it gets passed on properly to the trucking company who will move these materials over the road to their final destination.

Speak Up Early, Speak Up Often

Importing hazardous cargo to Hawaii requires shippers to go through a few more procedures than non-hazardous cargo. However, an experienced provider can walk you through it, step by step. To get the guidance and assistance you need, make sure you disclose everything to your forwarder or carrier so they understand 1) exactly what you’re shipping, 2) how much of it you want to move, and 3) where you need it to go.

By starting that conversation early in the process—and providing the right documentation—you’ll be able to move hazardous materials with confidence, knowing they’ll arrive at their Hawaii destination safely.

Need to move hazardous materials around the Hawaiian Islands? Get in touch with us. We’ve helped plenty of retailers and wholesalers safely and easily get their cargo to its final destination in Hawaii, and we’d be happy to help you.

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