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Basics for hazardous materials carriers

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is committed to improving commercial motor vehicle safety and ensuring quality, equitable service for Ohioans. The PUCO registers more than 2,500 hazardous materials transporters each year and works to ensure carriers are safely transporting these commodities on Ohio’s highways.

Registration and permits

Carriers transporting hazardous materials in Ohio need to register with the PUCO. Registration forms are available from the PUCO in the motor carrier industry section of or by calling (800) 686-PUCO (7826).

In addition to registering with the PUCO, drivers who haul hazardous materials in an amount that requires placards to be displayed are required to complete an additional application for a hazardous materials endorsement on the commercial driver's license. The "Application for Hazardous Materials Endorsement" is available from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles at

Carriers that operate in interstate commerce and haul hazardous materials across state lines are required to apply for a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number. Carriers can apply online or print out the forms required by visiting the FMCSA registration page. For more information, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at (800) 832-5660.

Vehicle safety inspections

The PUCO and Ohio State Highway Patrol regularly conduct roadside inspections on commercial motor vehicles (CMV), including those transporting hazardous materials and wastes. Each safety inspection follows a thorough process to make sure that the driver and CMV meet the necessary state and federal regulations. Vehicles and drivers that fail to meet these regulations may be placed out-of-service and cannot continue operating until they comply with the regulations.

During the inspection of CMV’s transporting hazardous materials, the inspector checks for compliance with shipping papers, placards, marking, labeling, packaging and loading regulations. 

Shipping papers

Anytime a carrier transports hazardous materials, the driver must carry shipping papers which detail the material being transported. Shipping paper requirements can be found in 49 CFR Subpart C Part 172 of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). Shipping papers must be within the driver’s immediate reach when restrained by their seat belt and visible to a person entering the vehicle, or in a holder mounted on the inside of the driver’s door. Shipping orders, bills of lading and manifests are all considered shipping papers. The inspector will check the shipping papers and verify that all required information is present and accurate.


Anyone carrying hazardous materials is subject to the federal HMR and must comply with the applicable placarding requirements. General placarding requirements are contained in 49 CFR Subpart F Part 172 of the HMR. Each bulk packaging, freight container, unit load device, transport vehicle or rail car containing any quantity of hazardous materials must be placarded on each side and each end with placards specified for the type of material being transported.


The requirements for marking of packages are contained in 49 CFR, Subpart D, Part 172 of the HMR. The basic marking requirement consists of the proper shipping name and identification number of the hazardous material contained in the package. Markings should be durable, in English, and not obscured by other markings or labels. Depending on the material, there may be additional marking requirements.


Each person who offers for transportation or transports a hazardous material shall ensure the package is properly labeled as required in the rules. General labeling requirements are contained in 49 CFR Subpart E Part 172 of the HMR. An inspector will verify compliance with the labeling requirements including proper position, and the appropriate multiple and duplicate labeling.


Hazardous materials require certain packaging types as identified in the HMR. An inspector will identify the type of packaging used and determine if the packaging is appropriate for the material it contains, and is not leaking.


An inspector will verify compliance with blocking and bracing requirements of cargo as well as segregation, separation, and compatibility for the hazardous materials that are being transported.

For more information about the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations contact the FMCSA at (800) 832-5660 or the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826).

State and local regulations

CMVs carrying hazardous materials must operate and park in compliance with the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which they are operating. Hazardous materials carriers should become familiar with these regulations and follow them at all times.

Vehicle surveillance

A CMV containing hazardous materials and located on a public street, highway or the shoulder of a public highway must be attended by a driver at all times.


CMVs cannot be parked on or within five feet of the traveled portion of a public street or highway. Private property owners must be aware of the fact that a hazardous material is on board the CMV and provide their consent to have it parked on their property. Additionally, vehicles cannot be parked within 300 feet of a bridge, tunnel, dwelling or place where people work, congregate or assemble, except when necessary to fulfill the operation.


If a tire is flat, leaking, or not properly inflated, the driver must have the tire repaired or replaced before the vehicle is driven (the vehicle can be driven to the nearest safe area to perform required action).

If a tire is overheated, the driver must immediately remove it and place it at a safe distance from the vehicle. The driver should not operate the vehicle until the cause of the overheating is corrected.


No person may smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe on or within 25 feet of a CMV that contains certain hazardous materials including flammable gas or explosive materials. Smoking is also prohibited on or within 25 feet of an empty tank motor vehicle which has been used to transport flammable materials or gases.


When fueling a motor vehicle that contains hazardous materials, the engine must be shut off and a person must be in control of the fueling process.


The PUCO is responsible for specifying routes that hazardous materials carriers must follow in Ohio. CMVs carrying hazardous materials shall operate over these routes which do not go through or near heavily populated areas, narrow streets or alleys, except where the motor carrier determines that such routes are necessary due to reasonable circumstances including emergency conditions or to reach loading or unloading points or facilities for food.

Hazardous materials incidents

The PUCO employs hazardous materials specialists throughout the state of Ohio who are available to assist with investigations of hazardous materials transportation related issues and incidents.

In cases of emergency, the PUCO maintains a 24-hour Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting Line at (800) 642-3443 to which incidents involving hazardous materials can be reported.

The PUCO provides technical assistance to emergency responders; conducts investigations at the scene of a hazardous materials accident; assists with identifying hazardous materials; ensures proper compliance with regulations for transport; and conducts radiological surveys and contamination control surveys of radiological shipments.

Upon calling the Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting Line, PUCO personnel will inform you of the availability and estimated time of arrival of a PUCO hazardous materials specialist.

Training and planning grants program

The PUCO will award grants for the training of public safety and emergency services personnel in the proper techniques for the management of hazardous materials spills and releases that occur during transportation. Grants are awarded on a reimbursement basis. Grant applications can be submitted at any time and are reviewed on a quarterly basis. For more information, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826).

Transporting radioactive materials

Transporters of highway route controlled quantities (HRCQ) of radioactive materials must operate vehicles only over preferred routes specified by the PUCO. Deviation from these routes is permitted only when emergencies make the route unsafe or impossible to travel.

When transporting HRCQ radioactive materials, the carrier must prepare a written route plan and supply a copy before departure to the driver and the shipper. Any change to the plan must be reported in an amendment to the route plan, and delivered to the shipper within 30 days following the deviation.

Drivers of HRCQ shipments must have proper training every two years to operate a vehicle transporting radioactive materials. A certificate of training must be in the driver’s possession and in the driver’s qualification file.

Shipments of HRCQ originating in Ohio must be inspected by a qualified inspector prior to transporting the material.

Exclusive use shipments of radioactive material must follow the instructions for exclusive use vehicles specified in 49 CFR 7.44.