Undeclared Dangerous Goods

Do you travel by air? Do you own a company that ships consumer products? Do you mail holiday or birthday presents? Do you sell products online on e-commerce sites? Do you handle or accept cargo packages for transportation? If the answer is yes, then it is time for you to determine whether the products that you introduce into transportation are dangerous.

An "undeclared" dangerous good is any shipment where dangerous goods are not identified. In other words, there is no visible indication that the package contains a dangerous material (e.g. missing the required shipping paper/declaration, markings, labels, or other hazard communication).

More than 3 billion tons of regulated dangerous goods—including explosive, poison, corrosive, flammable, and radioactive materials—are known to be transported in the United States each year. Over 261,000 tons of these dangerous goods are transported by air. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has developed a system of hazard communication, which includes visual markings and labels (identifying the potential hazards of a shipment), shipping papers and notices to pilots (which allow for proper segregation of potentially reactive chemicals and critical emergency response information), and specific packaging (which is tested to withstand conditions typically encountered during transportation). These requirements are found in the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Although DOT is the federal agency responsible for regulating the carriage of hazardous materials within the United States, the carriage of hazardous materials by U.S. Mail is regulated by the United States Postal Service through USPS Publication 52. Although mailing standards for hazardous materials in Publication 52 closely adhere to the HMR, the standards also include many additional limitations and prohibitions and often are more restrictive than the requirements of other commercial carriers.

Regardless of the shipping method, an improperly prepared shipment increases the risk to everyone in the supply chain. Lives, safety, property, and the environment all rely on the safe transportation of dangerous goods. Experts believe that the most frequent explanation for undeclared shipments is a shipper's lack of knowledge--an unawareness or misunderstanding of the requirements for properly declaring and transporting dangerous goods.

How Can You Prevent Undeclared Dangerous Goods?

No person or business wants the negative repercussions resulting from a dangerous goods aviation incident. Properly identifying and managing risks are essential for aviation safety. Regardless of your role in aviation or transportation, embrace a culture of safety that recognizes hazards and takes steps to reduce the risks of those hazards. Explore the resources on this website and share them with your networks!

If you ship goods, take the time to evaluate whether they are dangerous goods. Check out SafeCargo for more information and resources on how shippers can prevent undeclared dangerous and ship safely. If you plan to ship via USPS, check out USPS information and resources. Share these resources within your operations and networks to reduce risk and increase awareness. If you are shipping in support of a commercial enterprise, make sure you have the proper training.

If you travel by aircraft, take the time to evaluate whether you are packing dangerous goods in your luggage. Check out PackSafe for more information on what you can or cannot bring in passenger luggage.

If you are an aircraft operator, take the time to review the resources on both SafeCargo and PackSafe. OperateSafe has information and resources developed specifically for air carriers. Consider sharing these resources throughout your operations to reduce risk and improve safety.

Last updated: Wednesday, June 7, 2023