The Challenges of Transporting Hazardous Materials


Transporting hazardous materials poses several challenges for businesses, making it crucial that logistics providers consider effective route optimisation and scheduling software from the outset. Moving dangerous loads not only requires great care and caution, but also needs to be meticulously planned in order to meet numerous safety restrictions limiting free passage. 

Logistics providers tasked with transporting hazardous goods must recognise the importance of a routing and scheduling solution that considers each of the various compliance regulations to support them in ensuring safe transportation, timely deliveries and effectively utilising the pool of available drivers. Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing, Descartes UK, explains how this can not only assist with the seamless transportation of hazardous goods, but also improve the overall safety, efficiency and compliance of drivers.


Identification, Classification and Regulation

Attention to detail is vital when transporting hazardous materials; logistics providers must have full knowledge of the contents of all vehicles. Whilst this may appear incredibly straightforward, there may be certain materials they are unaware of, which could present multiple potential hazards. For example, automotive parts are known to contain ferromagnetic materials, and may require specialist storage to meet health and safety requirements, as these materials can have a hazardous effect on aircraft instruments. The United Nations’ ‘Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods’ establishes a basic system for the safe transport of dangerous materials and defines nine classifications, with the aim to ultimately minimise the risk of accidents and reduce the impact of incidents, should they occur.

Logistics companies are required to declare each load transported, specifying the hazard class, quantities, contents and the necessary storage methods. Assessments are then made, assigning the substances to one of three packing groups. A substance identification number (UN number) is then allocated, ensuring that the item can be swiftly and clearly identified during transit. The UN numbers can be found on all transport documents, packages, containers and vehicles, where a description of the substance can also be located. Adhering to logistical regulations and displaying all of the necessary information helps to verify where vehicles are able to travel, and routes that may be prohibited. For instance, access to certain tunnels is restricted, based on the classification and product carried. Advanced routing and scheduling software enable the customer to generate an efficient, effective and appropriate route plan, which also takes hazardous materials transportation requirements into consideration.


Driver Compliance 

This intelligent routing software also considers additional restrictions when optimising routes, such as vehicle width, weight and height, alongside the classification of the materials in transportation, providing solutions that support hazardous goods as part of the standard ‘truck routing’ capability. In addition to effective planning software, mobile ePOD and navigation solutions can also be incorporated, with the aim to provide drivers with electronic forms detailing the contents of each load, alongside navigation instructions that avoid restricted areas. Utilising valuable planning software and navigation solutions undeniably simplifies moving dangerous loads from A to B, creating a smoother experience for drivers from the outset, avoiding inevitable delays and potentially large fines that could affect business operations.

Fleet and compliance management can together ensure that delivery capacity can be successfully controlled, and logistics providers can utilise their pool of drivers to the optimum level, without overworking staff, exceeding drivers’ hours and facing unnecessary additional costs. Drivers’ hours compliance, vehicle safety checks, CPC verification and DVLA license information can be stored within a single compliance management platform, and operators can download digital tachograph data for analysis and reporting, whilst the vehicle is in operation to practice proactive driver compliance management.

Using automated downloads of tachograph data via telematics devices will improve driver compliance and guarantee time savings, as the data can be downloaded whilst the vehicle is en route and any issues can be dealt with in a timely fashion. A mobile app can be programmed to prompt drivers and ensure that the correct safety checks are being followed before the journey begins, detailing the processes and an audit trail of location, duration and the time the checks were conducted. Any issues regarding the vehicle can be flagged instantly, assuring operators that safety is not compromised due to roadworthiness.  Giving drivers the option to use a handheld device also means that they can swiftly access dangerous goods notes (DGN) if they are required to display proof that the protocols and procedures have been met at any point on their journey, without the nuisance of paperwork.


Efficient Operations and Real-time Data 

Implementing advanced routing software for transporting hazardous materials ultimately increases the overall efficiency of operations. Delivery capacity can be increased with fewer drivers, helping to mitigate the well-publicised HGV driver shortage that is continuing to challenge businesses across the UK.

Software that uses data in real-time is able to accurately predict the duration of each journey and the directional flow of traffic, which is far more effective than using the average for each road. It also helps drivers to navigate efficiently and reduces overall stress, which plays a vital part in retaining drivers – another crucial element for companies to consider if they are to withstand the growing pressures of driver shortages.

With the correct model in place, organisations will be able to manage real-time challenges and adapt to changes as they happen, without getting caught in delays as a result of poor planning and a lack of data. The transportation of hazardous materials is a sensitive and potentially dangerous task, so it is critical for logistics providers to consider how advanced software could be implemented to assist their drivers and ensure that they feel safe on each and every journey.



The compliance and restrictions associated with handling and delivering hazardous materials requires the support of advanced routing and scheduling to ensure that drivers only take appropriate routes, for the safety and efficiency of all. In turn, logistics providers can rest assured that the only hazard they will come up against when it comes to route planning is the load they are transporting.