There are no simple rules to follow when shipping hazardous materials, since state, federal and international regulations may often appear to be a conflicting maze. However, the Environment, Health and Safety Online website can step the public and EHS professionals through some of the Department of Transportation requirements. It provides links to more specific instructions for carriers and shippers, and recommends that motor carriers also refer to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Changes in hazardous materials regulations were phased in over a period of years, so that U.S. rules were compatible with international standards. Always doing things our own way is not conducive to remaining competitive in the world trade arena. International relations require international cooperation and harmonization, especially as regards hazardous materials. Rogue nations aside, the health and safety of the world community depends on our seeing many things through the same lenses.
On the other hand, such regulations change all the time for various reasons. These include changes in international law, advances in technology, or new legislation in this country. It can be difficult for carriers and shippers to keep up with it all. Though they spend a great deal of time and money trying to do so, they may find themselves not in compliance at some point or another.
HazMat Shipping and the Military
The commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States seems not to apply to the branches of the military. That has the effect of making military shipments not subject to federal jurisdiction, as long as they are being transported on military vehicles or aircraft. States, however, have their own rules regarding military highway shipments, and enforce them. Department of Defense and the individual service branches require specific compliances. If the military uses commercial shippers, then federal commerce rules apply, at least when we are not officially at war.