Does Hazmat Shipping Require a Security Plan?

An engineer from behind at busy port full with ships and containers.

Every day, tons of hazardous materials are transported across the world. In the United States, more than three billion tons of hazardous materials are transported every year, which constitutes 12% of all freight tonnage transported within the country.

Apart from the logistical risks associated with transporting hazardous materials, the possibility of intentional attacks and sabotage is something that hazmat shippers need to take into account. Certain types of hazardous materials are more likely to be targeted by terrorists and other antisocial elements due to their potential for misuse, illegal activities, or harm.

Why is it Important to Recognize the Risk of Terrorist Attacks and Sabotage on Hazmat Shipments?

Terrorists and other antisocial elements might target shipments of hazardous materials. Here’s why these security risks must be seriously addressed.

Potential for Mass Casualties

Hazardous materials, especially those that are flammable, explosive, or toxic, have the potential to cause mass casualties if released or misused. Terrorists may seek to maximize the impact of their actions by targeting materials that can result in significant harm to human life.

Creation of Weapons

Certain hazardous materials can be used to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or other weapons. Terrorists may target shipments to obtain materials for use in constructing destructive devices.

Disruption of Critical Infrastructure

Targeting hazardous material shipments can disrupt critical infrastructure like transportation systems, supply chains, or industrial facilities. This disruption can have cascading effects on the economy and public safety.

Environmental Contamination

Deliberate releases of hazardous materials can lead to environmental contamination, posing long-term risks to ecosystems and public health. Terrorists may exploit this aspect to cause widespread panic and undermine societal resilience.

Economic Impact

Disrupting the transportation or use of hazardous materials can have economic consequences. This may include financial losses for businesses, increased costs for emergency response and recovery efforts, and potential damage to a region’s economic stability.

The Need for Security Plans for Hazmat Transportation

Understanding the risk of sabotage and attacks on hazmat shipments, the US DOT’s Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) has come up with a framework for addressing the security risks associated with shipping hazardous materials. It is called the Risk Management Self-Evaluation Framework (RMSEF).

The RMSELF is a template that hazmat shippers, freight forwarders, and other people involved in hazmat transportation can use to address the vulnerabilities in the transportation process and devise a security plan to address them.

The framework includes seven steps, each of which is designed to address a specific aspect of the hazmat transportation risk management process. These include:


This step involves scrutinizing the hazmat transportation process, understanding how different parties (container manufacturers, freight forwarders, shippers, consignees, emergency response teams, and others) interact and collaborate with each other during the transportation process, and setting the objectives for risk management.

Knowledge of Operations

This step involves collecting data on various aspects of the hazmat transportation process and the existing security measures.


This step involves analyzing the potential vulnerabilities and risks associated with every step of the transportation process and identifying risk control points where preventive and proactive measures can be taken to reduce security risks.


This step involves devising a security plan and the preventive and proactive measures that can be applied at risk control points to reduce the overall threat of sabotage and intentional attacks.


This step involves implementing the aforementioned risk management strategies and measures.


This step involves monitoring the security measures being implemented and making sure the security plan is being followed as it was intended to be.


This step involves analyzing and determining whether the objectives set by reducing the security risks associated with hazmat transportation are being met.

The Role of Hazmat Training in Reducing the Security Risks Associated with Hazmat Transportation

Proper hazmat training is essential to reduce the risks of sabotage and terrorist attacks associated with the transportation process. A well-trained workforce can play a key role in enhancing security, preventing incidents, and responding effectively in the event of an emergency. Here are ways in which proper hazardous materials training can contribute to risk reduction:

Increased Awareness and Vigilance

Hazmat training can help employees understand the specific hazards associated with different materials and modes of transportation. This heightened awareness can help them recognize suspicious activities, potential security threats, or signs of tampering.

Security Measures Implementation

Trained personnel are better equipped to implement security measures effectively. This includes checking and securing containers, verifying documentation, and adhering to protocols for the secure transport of hazardous materials.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is crucial in preventing and responding to security threats. Hazmat training can teach employees how to communicate clearly and promptly with relevant authorities, emergency responders, and fellow team members in the event of a security concern.

Recognition of Suspicious Behavior

Hazmat training can help employees recognize suspicious behavior or activities that may indicate potential security threats. This can include unusual surveillance of transportation facilities, unauthorized access attempts, or abnormal behavior by individuals in the vicinity.

Emergency Response Preparedness

Hazmat training includes emergency response drills and procedures, which can prepare employees to respond effectively to incidents – whether they are accidental releases, suspected tampering, or intentional attacks. This preparedness can help minimize the impact of an incident to a great extent.

To learn more PHMSA provides this handout.

Hazmat University’s Online Training Courses – Designed to Make Hazmat Transportation Safe for Everyone

At Hazmat University, we believe that proper hazmat training can instill a culture of security consciousness in individuals and organizations. When employees at all levels of an organization are aware of and committed to security practices, the overall risk of sabotage and terrorist attacks can be significantly reduced.

We offer a wide range of online hazmat training courses for hazmat employees and other hazmat professionals involved in the transportation of hazardous materials by air, ground, and vessel. Our training courses cover every aspect of hazmat transportation – from general awareness of hazardous materials to regulatory requirements and the security, safety, and emergency response measures to be taken during the transportation process.

Call us today at 844-769-2815 or get in touch with us online to find out more about our online hazmat training courses.


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