HazMat Trucking: What You Need to Know

There are many types of trucking specialties out there and many of them carry significant risk if the driver and trucking company do not know what they are doing.

But perhaps the specialty that carries the most amount of risk is hazmat trucking. There are enhanced laws and regulations that apply to this brand of trucking designed to protect the driver and the public against mishaps.

And noncompliance with these regulations is a serious matter. It takes a lot of training, education and experience to ensure a hazmat trucking operation transports hazardous materials safely.

In this article, I am going to cover some of the key areas you need to know about hazmat trucking, including what it is in general, the various classes of hazmat trucking, how much you can make, your essential duties, qualifications, licenses and permits, and more.

If you’re considering entering the hazmat trucking business, you will want to understand all of it.

Let’s get into it.

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What is Hazmat Trucking?

Hazmat trucking is a type of trucking that specializes in carrying hazardous materials. These materials can include chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other dangerous substances.

Hazmat trucking is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Types of Hazmat Transportation

Hazmat trucking is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). This department sets safety standards for the transport of hazardous materials. There are three levels of hazmat transportation:

Class 1

Class 1 hazmat transportation is the most dangerous. This level includes materials that can cause major explosions if transported incorrectly. Examples of items that fall into this category include propane and butane gas.

Class 2

Class 2 hazmat transportation is less dangerous than Class 1. Yet, it still requires careful handling due to the potential for accidents. Examples of items that fall into this category include gasoline and oil products.

Class 3

Class 3 hazmat transportation is the least dangerous type of hazmat transportation. It includes materials that are not considered to be hazardous by the DOT. Examples of items that fall into this category include wood products and water.

What Are the Duties of a Hazmat Truck Driver?

Hazmat truck drivers must safely transport hazardous materials in their trucks and trailers in accordance with applicable safety regulations.

They must be familiar with all the safety procedures for transporting hazardous materials. They must also know how to respond to emergencies.

As a general matter, truck drivers transporting hazardous materials over highways are required to have a commercial driver’s license with a special endorsement for hazardous materials (HM). Depending on the type of vehicle that they will be operating, they may also need other endorsements, such as for tanks (T).

On top of having the appropriate licensure, owner-operators much also register with both the FMCSA and PHMSA and comply with initial and ongoing safety training requirements of those agencies.

The Qualification and Experience for Hazmat Drivers

We already covered some of the key requirements for being an owner-operator of a hazmat trucking operation. But let’s dive a little deeper. As the most basic level, you will need to get your operating authority from the FMCSA (including your US DOT Number and Motor Carrier Number).

You may also need to get additional permits, such as a hazardous materials safety permit (HMSP) if you plan on transporting certain types of highly hazardous materials.

As mentioned already, you will also likely need to register with the PHMSA.

And let’s not forget about your commercial driver’s license, with appropriate endorsements.

Obviously, you must also be properly trained in operating vehicles hauling hazardous materials and on how to conduct appropriate inspections of the vehicle as required by law. You must also be trained on how to load and unload materials.

For a good summary of training requirements, check out this handbook from the DOT.

How Much Do Hazmat Owner Operators Make?

Removal, handling, and transporting hazardous materials is a lucrative field. It offers many growth opportunities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for hazmat owner-operators is $151,637 a year. These earnings may vary depending on the type of materials being transported, and the distance traveled.

How to Start a Hazmat Trucking Business

The tricky part is getting the right licensing and training for your hazmat business. We’ve talked about the key things to consider there.

But you will also need to address some of the more practical elements of starting a hazmat trucking business, including getting your truck and trailer (or tank), setting up your business entity, getting appropriate insurance (at least liability and cargo insurance, which will be required if you want your own authority), and getting loads on an ongoing basis.

For a general overview of how to start a trucking business with just one truck, check out my article on the topic here. Starting a hazardous materials trucking business can be a complex and expensive process. But it can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor for those who are up for the challenge.

Job Outlook for Hazmat Truckers

In the United States, there are approximately 3,500 hazmat truckers working today. The job outlook for hazmat truckers is expected to grow by 18% over the next decade. This is due to the increase in hazmat transportation and the growth of the hazmat industry.

Hazmat truckers work in various industries, including transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare. They transport hazardous materials, such as chemicals, radioactive materials, and explosives. The job outlook for hazmat truckers is good because there is a growing need for hazmat transportation.

However, the number of accidents involving hazardous materials is rising and will continue to increase. This is due to the increased number of trucks carrying hazardous materials on the roads. The casualties are often due to the driver’s inexperience or lack of training.

Because of this, companies must be aware of the risks associated with these materials. They must take necessary steps to protect themselves, their employees, and the community.

Some benefits of being a hazmat trucker include flexible hours, good pay, and advancement opportunities. The downside of this job is that it can be challenging and dangerous.


So there you have it – an overview of some of the key factors you should consider and understand about hazmat trucking. Hope this has been helpful and happy trucking.