Private fleets often transport hazardous materials (hazmat) while performing a service. These quantities are minimal and pose less of a hazard if released. But do these materials require compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR)? It depends.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has an exception that reduces the number of regulatory obligations for some substances transported in limited quantity as Materials of Trade (MOT).

Some of the most common MOT include gasoline, welding gases, aerosol paints, paint thinners, charcoal, propane, batteries, and various consumer commodities. The MOT exceptions do not apply to self-reactive materials, poisonous by inhalation materials, or hazardous wastes.       

‘MOT’ Defined

You must meet one of the three criteria to use the MOT exceptions, including hazmat carried on a motor vehicle used:

  1. For the purpose of protecting the health and safety of the motor vehicle operator or passengers (e.g., insect repellants, fire extinguishers).
  2. For the purpose of supporting the operation or maintenance of a motor vehicle, including its auxiliary equipment (e.g., spare batteries, small gasoline tanks, engine starting fluid).
  3. By a private motor carrier (including vehicles operated by a rail carrier) in direct support of a principal business other than transportation by motor vehicle (e.g., lawn care services, plumbers, welders, painting operations).  

What Quantities Qualify?

The key to claiming the MOT exceptions is the quantity of material being transported. A comprehensive list of materials with individual quantities are specified in §173.6.

The individual quantities are just one part of the quantity limits. The gross weight of all MOT on a motor vehicle may not exceed 440 pounds (200 kilograms). The 440-pound maximum includes all packaging, but it does not include a permanently mounted tank with 400 gallons or less of diluted Class 9 material.

This means that you can have multiple MOT on the vehicle, but the gross weight of all MOT combined cannot exceed 440 pounds.

Packaging Requirements

Packaging for MOT must be:

  • Leak tight for liquids and gases,
  • Sift proof for solids, and
  • Securely closed, secured against shifting, and protected against damage.

Each material must be packaged in the manufacturer’s original packaging or packaging of equal or greater strength and integrity. Packaging for gasoline must be made of metal or plastic and conform to the HMR or OSHA regulations.

Outer packaging is not required for receptacles (e.g., cans and bottles) secured against shifting in cages, carts, bins, boxes, or compartments.

 A Break from Some (Not All) ‘HMR’

The MOT exceptions do not remove all regulatory obligations and do not require:

  • Shipping papers;
  • Emergency response information;
  • Placarding;
  • Formal training; or
  • Retention of training records.

However, companies must still comply with:

  • General knowledge of the MOTs regulations;
  • Quantity limitations;
  • Packaging requirements;
  • Marking requirements;
  • Labeling requirements;
  • Closure requirements; and
  • Securement requirements.

Bottom line

When using the MOT exception, be sure that you qualify and continue to comply with the areas not covered under the exception. A misunderstanding of the criteria could easily result in violations during roadside inspections and DOT audits.  

About the Author: Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. She can be reached at