Anyone who ships or transports hazardous materials is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to complete a specialized training and obtain certification before carrying or handling dangerous goods. This mandate applies to employees who prepare materials or packages for shipping, load or unload the materials before or after delivery, and drive the vehicles that transport the materials from one location to another. If this describes you, then you'll need to go through specific training to ensure that you are legally allowed to work with hazmat substances. Keep reading below for a basic overview of the training and some helpful things to know about the process.

1) The training covers several elements of hazmat shipping regulations.

Regardless of your job role, the DOT requires that everyone involved in the transportation of hazardous materials must attend a general awareness training. You'll learn exactly what qualifies as hazardous (radioactive materials, infectious substances, dangerous chemicals, dry ice, lithium batteries, and liquid nitrogen, for example). You'll also gain an understanding of how the program works, what part your unique position plays within that system, and why training is so important to maintain the safe handling of dangerous items. Additionally, you will need to attend training that is specific to your job function. There are supplemental trainings available that focus entirely on safety, security awareness, and driving. 

2) You will need to repeat the training process regularly.

Once you complete the initial DOT training, you will have to take the same training again every three years. This cannot simply be a refresher; the entire training is required. You must also attend a training program every time the DOT makes an update to the rules and regulations or if you change job roles. Some companies expect their employees to take the training annually to guarantee that they stay current and compliant. Failure to finish all of the necessary training will mean that you won't be able to work with any hazardous materials until you finish the training and all of the associated testing specifications. You may also be subject to monetary fines if a DOT instructor discovers that you haven't taken the proper training.

3) You can attend the training in-person or online.

Depending on your company's requirements, you will attend a training course either online or at a public workshop. If your learning style is more compatible with a hands-on approach, you should ask for a face-to-face training in a classroom setting. This will allow you to interact directly with an instructor and try exercises with other trainees in person. On the other hand, if you thrive in a virtual environment, online workshops may be a better training method for you. Online courses are also usually offered more frequently than live classes, so web-based options are ideal if you need to complete training urgently. Whether you choose a classroom course or online lessons, the material will be the same.

Receiving DOT hazmat shipper training is not just required by law — it is also crucial in the prevention of any errors or incidents during the transportation of hazardous materials.