Key Points:

  • Batteries, liquids, and imitation weapons are common items classified as dangerous goods
  • The US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the international regulatory agencies recognize nine classes of dangerous goods
  • Merchants can ship dangerous goods with carriers like FedEx and UPS, though they’re not the only two

Dangerous goods aren’t limited to just needles, chemicals, and guns. In the shipping world, dangerous goods can be anything that could cause harm to those handling them in transit if not handled with care. Most dangerous goods are defined internationally by IATA, the international organization regulating air travel, although some couriers have slightly different rules. It may come as a surprise that goods such as liquids and lithium-ion batteries belong on this list.

For modern eCommerce sellers, lithium-ion batteries are the most common dangerous goods that are sent internationally, and specific labeling procedures are required to ensure a safe shipment via international air freight. Also worth noting is that international airlines are increasingly having problems with fires caused on board due to lithium-ion batteries.

The purpose of this guide is to help you better understand dangerous goods and share some best practices for shipping DG internationally, hassle-free. However, if you still have questions we highly recommend contacting your courier directly for the most updated information and tailored advice for your situation.

Table of Contents

What’s Classified as a Dangerous Good?

Like we’ve said, dangerous goods aren’t just limited to needles, chemicals, and guns. There are a wide variety of goods which can be considered dangerous. In this section, we’ll go over what classifies a dangerous good.

Here are some of the most common dangerous goods:

  • Batteries (lithium-ion batteries in laptop computers and mobile phones)
  • Liquids
  • Imitation weapons

Typically, couriers usually provide a list of dangerous items, which may include items like aerosols, weapons, and flammable materials. These items are often regulated by import countries and air freight providers, so make sure you know if your shipment contains any of these items before you send it.

This section will talk about dangerous goods classifications and how to identify them.

Dangerous Goods Classifications

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the international regulatory agencies recognize nine classes of dangerous goods. It’s critical to know what classification your good falls under, so you can properly identify it. Here are the nine classes:

Class 1: Explosives

This class includes items like:

  • Fireworks
  • Ammunition
  • Airbag inflators

Class 2: Gases

This class includes items like:

  • Aerosols
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Propane cylinders

Class 3: Flammable Liquids

This class includes items like:

  • Paints
  • Lacquers
  • Alcohols

Class 4: Flammable Solids, Spontaneous Combustibles

This class includes items like:

  • Matches
  • Carbon
  • Sodium batteries

Class 5: Oxidizers

This class includes items like:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ammonium nitrate fertilizers
  • Pool chlorine

Class 6: Toxic or Infectious Substances

This class includes items like:

  • Medical waste
  • Dyes
  • Pesticides

Class 7: Radioactive Materials

This class includes items like:

  • Density gauges
  • Medical treatment products
  • Uranium

Class 8: Corrosives

This class includes items like:

  • Acid/acid solutions
  • Batteries
  • Iodine

Class 9: Miscellaneous

This class includes items like:

  • Dry ice
  • Internal combustion engines
  • First aid kits

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Dangerous Goods?

Fortunately, you’re able to ship dangerous goods with carriers like FedEx and UPS, though they’re not the only two. Many couriers charge premium rates and an additional charge for dangerous goods due to the extra risks involved with handling and processing them.

Additionally, insurance for dangerous goods is also much more expensive due to the added risk of shipment. Some couriers require you to take insurance on your shipment to cover both the courier's health and safety risk, and can even refuse to cover your shipment for any damage which may occur in transit.

In this section, we’ll go over the costs involved to ship dangerous goods, that way there are no hidden fees.

Shipping with FedEx

There are different fees associated with dangerous goods when shipping with FedEx. Accessible dangerous goods are items that are marked as dangerous and must be accessible for the crew during transit.

On the other hand, inaccessible dangerous goods are items that are marked as dangerous but don’t need to be accessed during transport. Let’s talk about the specific costs associated with each type of special handling fee.

FedEx Service

FedEx Service Accessible Cost Inaccessible Cost Dry Ice Cost Inaccessible (Dry Ice) Cost
FedEx First Overnight $145 $68.50 $7.05 $68.50
FedEx Priority Overnight $145 $68.50 $7.05 $68.50
International Priority Express Freight Services - Accessible Greater of $217 or $1.18 per lb. Greater of $107.50 or $0.59 per lb. $7.05 per shipment $7.05 per package to/from Puerto Rico
International Express Freight Services - Accessible Greater of $217 or $1.18 per lb. Greater of $107.50 or $0.59 per lb. --- ---

It’s also important to note that a minimum billable weight may apply. In order to know if your shipment qualifies, FedEx recommends contacting their customer service team for assistance.

Shipping with UPS

Similar to FedEx, there are different fees for shipping dangerous goods depending on if it's classified as an accessible or inaccessible good. Here are the associated fees for shipping dangerous goods with UPS.

UPS Services

Package / Service Accessible Dangerous Goods Inaccessible Dangerous Goods
UPS® Ground $33.00 $33.00
UPS Domestic Air Services* $93.00 per package $46.50 per package
UPS International Air Services* Greater of $146.00 per shipment or $17.53 per Dangerous Goods package Greater of $72.00 per shipment or $8.64 per Dangerous Goods package
UPS Worldwide Express Freight Services Greater of $146.00 per shipment or $0.79 per lb. Greater of $72.00 per shipment or $0.39 per lb.

How to Pack Dangerous Goods

One of the main reasons dangerous goods are classified as “dangerous” is the risk they pose to those transporting the goods. Pack your orders carefully to ensure that no damage comes to the products during transit and that those handling the package are safe from harm. For instance, with lithium batteries, you’ll want to make sure that you use extra padding.

Whether it’s a laptop computer or liquids, all shipments need to be padded well. If your packaging is not adequate enough, it may cause delays to your shipment. There may be different rules for each courier concerning your dangerous goods, depending on the amount you are carrying. Generally, the rules are 100ml max for liquid and 2 batteries per shipment, but please contact your courier directly to confirm as these rules are subject to change at any time.

Marking & Labeling Guidelines

Depending on the carrier, you may be subject to different guidelines for marking and labeling your package. For reference, let’s take a look at FedEx and UPS.

FedEx Guidelines

Depending on the contents of your shipment, additional markings may be required. However, FedEx requires all packages to have a minimum of four package markings:

  1. Shipper’s address
  2. Recipient’s address
  3. Proper shipping name as designated by the US Department of Transportation (DOT)
  4. The UN/NA Identification Number

In addition, all packages must be properly marked in accordance with Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) requirements. Items also cannot be a part of FedEx's restricted items list.

UPS Guidelines

Similarly to FedEx, packages must be marked according to the requirements of 49 CFR or IATA. Additionally, UPS requires all packages to have the following minimum information without exception:

  1. Proper shipping name and identification number
  2. Technical name, if required
  3. Shipper’s name and address
  4. Consignee’s name and address
  5. Orientation markings, when required

Required markings must also be located away from the other makers and must be unobstructed by other labels.

Dangerous Goods Shipping Regulations

Due to IATA’s dangerous goods list, many products can’t fly. These goods would then need to be shipped via surface freight. While this will be a much cheaper option for you, it will take a lot longer for the customer to receive their products.

Certain batteries, such as standalone power packs and disconnected batteries, are a problem for many couriers. If you are shipping batteries, always research beforehand what the shipping limits are, as they change often, can put people at risk, and can also land your company large fines from national governments who are cracking down on undeclared dangerous goods shipments.

Large shippers like Amazon have been subject to these fines for shipping large amounts of lithium-ion batteries without declaring them. Though you might do this unintentionally, ignorance is not a good enough defense.

Additionally, many dangerous goods can only travel by ground due to IATA regulations, which means express couriers will refuse to carry them. If that’s the case, these types of dangerous goods could be banned from certain countries, so you should definitely confirm that you can import what you are sending before you proceed.

Although a country may accept these dangerous goods, there’s still a possibility that there are no couriers willing to ship the goods there. Always check with your courier first.

3 Tips for Shipping Dangerous Goods

Shipping dangerous goods don’t have to be hard. So, here are a few tips to help you understand how to ship dangerous goods.

1. Splitting Your Shipment

If claiming your shipment as dangerous goods is something you want to avoid altogether, you could ask your courier if it is possible to split your shipment. If this is an option, it can save you a lot of time as you will not have to deal with dangerous goods documentation, and goods will not have to undergo special procedures in order to be shipped.

In some cases, sending multiple shipments as a normal goods shipment may be cheaper than one dangerous goods shipment. This is common in the case of mobile phones and notebook computers, where it is possible to make your shipment smaller than the threshold.

However, this option is not risk-free. In fact, it could end up being more troublesome and inefficient for you because couriers can impose limitations not only on the number of dangerous goods per shipment but also on the number of dangerous goods shipments per consignee per day, meaning you would end up having to arrange multiple shipments over several days.

2. Have the Right Documentation to Ship Dangerous Goods

Getting the documentation right when sending a dangerous goods shipment is important, and also the key to ensuring your shipment goes smoothly. When making a dangerous goods shipment, ensure that all dangerous items are declared in your air waybill and commercial invoice under “Item Description”. Additionally, most couriers will require you to complete an expanded international air waybill and include a 24-hour telephone number on your shipper's declarations. Any errors in this documentation can lead to massive delays at customs.

Most dangerous goods shipments need a hazard label identifying the risk coming from the package, and an UN-number identifying the type of dangerous goods in the shipment. Potential hazards are usually identified in the Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS. If you are shipping aerosols, batteries, or a fragile container, your shipment will also require additional stickers and labels to show this on the box. All hazard labels should be clear and easy for anyone to see.

3. Check to Make Sure You’re Allowed to Ship

Although couriers like UPS require users to enter an agreement that ensures compliance with applicable regulations and UPS carrier requirements, it’s important to check with your courier if you need any certifications before shipping dangerous goods.

Shipping Dangerous Goods with Easyship

In conclusion, there are many things to be aware of when transporting dangerous goods. At Easyship, our shipping sherpas always contact the couriers directly to confirm that a dangerous goods shipment can go through, and we encourage you to do the same should you have any questions about your own shipment. As long as you do your research, have secure packaging, complete documentation, and correct labeling, you’re on your way to shipping those dangerous goods like a pro!

There are other things to consider when shipping internationally. Why not check out our guide?

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Shipping Dangerous Goods FAQ

What’s the difference between hazardous and dangerous goods?

Dangerous goods present an immediate danger to people, property, and the environment that may harm a person’s health. On the other hand, hazardous substances are substances that present a direct risk to a person's health both short and long-term.

What are some examples of dangerous goods?

Some examples include lithium batteries, dry ice, explosives, and aerosol sprays.

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