Understanding MOTs and Their Significance

According to the Cornell Law School Open Access Legal Online Library, which takes data right from the DOT, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration defines Materials of Trade as the following:

“Material of trade means a hazardous material*, other than a hazardous waste**, that is carried on a motor vehicle –

For the purpose of protecting the health and safety of the motor vehicle operator or passengers;

For the purpose of supporting the operation or maintenance of a motor vehicle (including its auxiliary equipment); or

By a private motor carrier (including vehicles operated by a rail carrier) in direct support of a principal business that is other than transportation by motor vehicle.

Hazardous material means a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined can pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce, and has designated as hazardous under section 5103 of Federal hazardous materials transportation law (49 U.S.C. 5103). The term includes hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, elevated temperature materials, materials designated as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Table (see 49 CFR 172.101), and materials that meet the defining criteria for hazard classes and divisions in part 173 of this subchapter.

Hazardous waste means any material that is subject to the Hazardous Waste Manifest Requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency specified in 40 CFR part 262.”

Examples of Hazardous Materials (other than hazardous waste) – or Materials of Trade – that would be shipped can be found in the following list:

Propane, Acetylene

Non-flammable Gases (Division 2.2)

Oxygen, Nitrogen

Flammable or Combustible Liquids (Class 3)

Paint, Paint Thinner, Gasoline

Flammable Solids (Division 4.1)

Paint, Paint Thinner, Gasoline

Flammable Solids (Division 4.1)


Dangerous When Wet Materials (Division 4.3)

Some Fumigants

Oxidizers (Division 5.1)

Bleaching Compounds

Organic Peroxides (Division 5.2)

Benzoyl Peroxide

Poisons (Division 6.1)


Some Infectious Substances (Division 6.2)

Diagnostic Specimens

Corrosive Materials (Class 8)

Muriatic Acid, Drain Cleaners, Battery Acid

Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials (Class 9)

Asbestos, Self-inflating Lifeboats

Hair Spray, Spray Paints (Air Only)

Consumer Commodities (ORM-D)

It is important to know that you can find the specific regulations that apply to Materials of Trade in 49 CFR 173.6. Topics included are as follows:

  • Quantity Limitations;
  • Packaging requirements; general knowledge of MOTs regulations; and
  • Marketing and labeling requirements.

That said, it is crucial for the parties involved to understand if HMR requirements apply if you are shipping or carrying hazardous materials.

Interestingly, Materials of Trade do not require:

  • Training or retention of training documentation;
  • Placarding;
  • Emergency response information; or
  • Shipping papers.

To help round out the full picture of what is meant when speaking of Materials of Trade, the PHMSA goes on to say this on MOTs:

“Certain hazardous materials transported in small quantities as part of a business are subject to less regulation, because of the limited hazard they pose. These materials are known as Materials of Trade.”

This is a very good summary provided by the PHMSA in that is specifically isolates the situation that transporting what are normally considered Hazardous Materials can be thought of or regulated as Materials of Trade. Not to mention how much of a simpler language it is written in.

Further, Materials of Trade are noted as requiring special packaging and marking requirements based on the type of material and its packaging. Also, if you are shipping hazardous material as MOTs, there are specific limitations and exceptions on package quantities and weights. For more details on these requirements, it is a good idea to dig deeper into their relevant regulations.

The key to this is that no matter what line of work you are doing or what type of carrier you are, there is a high likelihood you are transporting or carrying some sort of hazardous materials as part of your daily routine. If you are aware of this, you will know to get educated on and follow the requirements set forth by the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). That will make sure you and your peers know how to classify and package materials, how to properly mark them, how to complete shipping papers, how to provide emergency contact information, how to use the correct placarding, and how to make sure training and retention of documented training is occurring.

This knowledge is what allows you to determine if you are dealing with Materials of Trade and how to follow those specific requirements.





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