SafeCargo for Shippers & E-Commerce

Know Before You Ship

More than 3 billion tons of regulated dangerous goods, also known as hazardous materials, are transported in the United States each year. Over 261,000 tons of these dangerous goods are transported by air. 

Air transportation is the catalyst for the quick and efficient delivery of goods. Express and expedited shipping options means a shipment is more likely to end up on an aircraft. In addition, the expansion of e-commerce has made buying and selling dangerous goods quicker and easier than ever. With these lower barriers to entry and a resulting increase in new entrants to the marketplace, cargo safety is imperative. It is increasingly important that all stakeholders engaged in shipping and the e-commerce supply chain are aware of the risks and are connected to the appropriate safe shipping resources. 

Transport Dangerous Goods by Air


What is the Risk?

When dangerous goods are properly packaged, labeled, and stowed, they can be transported safely by aircraft. However, it is important to recognize the unique risks factors that come with this incredible and efficient mode of transportation. Products that may seem harmless can be very dangerous when transported by an aircraft. In fact, some products that ship as unregulated by ground may be considered dangerous goods by air, for example dry ice, lithium batteries, or novelty fireworks. Even products and packaging that originally shipped by air, may not be authorized by air for subsequent shipments if they have been altered, for example damaged/defective/recalled lithium batteries or opened, modified, or used packaging.

The vibrations, static electricity, temperature, and pressure variations of air transportation can cause items to leak, generate toxic fumes, start a fire, or even explode if these products are not handled properly. The consequences of events like these on an aircraft can be catastrophic, posing significant threats to the aircraft, passengers, crew, transportation workers, emergency responders, the general public, and the environment because of the potential for accidents and incidents.

Identify the Risk

Even if you are familiar with dangerous goods shipping by other transportation modes, think critically about what your product is. Often, there are more stringent quantity limitations for shipping dangerous goods by air. Your specific type of good may even be prohibited by air transport, even if it shipped unregulated by ground. As risk increases, permitted quantities and authorizations decrease!

Consider these helpful tips to identify dangerous goods:

  • Remain alert to common names or products keywords that could indicate a dangerous good. For example: household goods, cleaners, perfumes/fragrance, aerosols, solvents, computer parts or equipment, electronics, paint products, coatings, powders, construction equipment/toolbox, power tools, office supplies, disinfectant, pesticides/herbicides, acidic, caustic, lab samples, perishable goods, refrigerated. 
  • Always pause and think critically about whether a product could fall under one of the nine DOT hazard classes. Is it an aerosol or gas under pressure? Does it contain a flammable, toxic, or corrosive liquid? Does it contain a lithium battery? Is it a perishable item being shipped with dry ice? Is it infectious?
  • Find the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), if applicable, for a product’s hazard classification. Reach out to a previous offeror, retailer, or the manufacturer of a product to confirm. If you ship a material, you are responsible for knowing the hazard classification of the product. 
  • Implement processes and controls in your commercial operations to recognize, identify, and either refuse or accept dangerous goods. If you choose to ship dangerous goods, you are responsible for complying with the dangerous goods shipping requirements, including training requirements.

What Should You Do If You Discover Undeclared Dangerous Goods?

If you discover undeclared dangerous goods in transportation, you must report the incident to the Department of Transportation. Incident reports (DOT Form F 5800.1) are used to mitigate risk, analyze gaps, and enhance safety.

You can find additional information on incident reporting and can report an incident online at: 

Remember Your Responsibility for Safety

  • The FAA and air carriers work together to ensure safety and mitigate risks in the national airspace system (NAS). As a shipper or freight forwarder, remember the impact you can have on this safety. Consider evaluating both the risks in your own operations and the risks in your contact’s operations. 
  • Identify and declare your dangerous goods. Adhere to shipping and transport requirements.
  • Ensure you have the required hazmat employee training commensurate with your job functions. 
  • Remember to always communicate and remain transparent with others in the supply chain. 
  • Share safety messaging and educate others!

FAA's Shipper Guides

Still looking for answers? Review our Frequently Asked Questions.

Top Requests

Last updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2023