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The Difference Between DOT and IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations

When most people think about cargo transport, they think about cargo ships, trains, and trucking. Yet, planes move a substantial amount of cargo. For example, planes moved approximately 1,675 thousand tons in September 2021 alone.

While much of that cargo was benign, such as mail, some of it falls into the dangerous category. There are regulations that determine how dangerous goods are transported, but those regulations vary based on land or air transport.

If you're considering shipping dangerous goods by air, you should know the difference between DOT and IATA dangerous goods regulations. Keep reading for an overview of the differences.

What Are IATA Regulations?

The IATA or International Air Transport Association regulations fall into a strange gray area. The IATA developed a set of recommendations about the transport of dangerous goods by air. These recommendations are found in the DGR or Dangerous Good Regulations manual.

In essence, you can think of the DGR as a set of best practices based on United Nations recommendations. Specifically, the DGR manual uses the ICAO technical instructions as its foundation. Here's where things get tricky.

The IATA regulations for transporting dangerous goods by air aren't technically regulations in and of themselves. They're just guidelines or best practices put out by a trade organization.

However, most airlines treat these recommendations as though they were regulations. Anyone that uses these airlines to transport dangerous goods must, by virtue of airline adoption of the rules, treat them like regulations.

Beyond that, the U.S. transport laws incorporate a lot of the DGR regulations as actual regulations.

What Are DOT Regulations?

The DOT or Department of Transportation has a broad mandate. Setting out safety regulations is one of its core functions. So, for example, there are DOT hazardous materials regulations that cover the transport of dangerous goods.

While hugely powerful, the DOT's reach is strictly confined. The regulations it puts out only cover the US. So, for example, airlines engaged in domestic shipping must meet all the DOT regulations.

In general, airlines bringing goods into the US must also meet these requirements because they're operating in US territory.

While the DOT regulations apply to airlines, the influence of the DOT doesn't end there. The DOT is also responsible for regulations over land transport, such as rail or trucking, as well.


One of the key differences between IATA regulations and DOT regulations is their scope. IATA regulations often have worldwide reach.

While not every nation adopts the DRG manual recommendations, the airlines often use those rules as a basic starting point. That means that, unless a nation adopts even more stringent guidelines, you can see DGR regulations almost anywhere.

As noted above, the DOT operates as a strictly US-based organization. While international companies that want to ship to or from the US must meet DOT requirements, they can ignore those requirements anywhere else they operate.

For example, let's say that a fireworks company operates out of Eastern Europe. They do most of their business in Europe but get about 10 percent of their sales from US customers.

For the 90 percent of sales based in Europe, they must only meet the safety regulations of those countries. For all of the US shipments, though, they must conform with the DOT regulations to get the shipments through customs.


For people working in the airline industry, IATA training is often a must. After all, you cannot know if something fails to meet the IATA standard if you don't know the standard. You can get IATA training through either classroom instruction or through online learning options.

Given that most people have limited free time in their schedules and broadband internet access, online training often proves the preferred option. You can do the training during your off hours and typically handle it as a self-paced course.

In some cases, you may also end up taking courses on specific kinds of dangerous materials, such as gases, flammable liquids, and flammable solids.

Of course, it's almost never that simple. The IATA regulations give you a good groundwork for understanding dangerous goods transport best practices. They don't necessarily cover all of the applicable DOT regulations in play.

In all likelihood, you will need specific DOT HAZMAT training as well. Your employer should inform you about any specific certifications you will need.

In many cases, employers will also provide you with or cover costs for the appropriate training.


Enforcement is another one of those gray areas when it comes to IATA regulations. The IATA cannot specifically enforce any of the recommendations in the DGR manual. Airlines, however, can enforce those regulations in a variety of ways.

If you don't follow them, an airline can charge you fees, refuse to carry a specific cargo, or refuse to carry any cargo for you.

Where the DOT and IATA regulations overlap, enforcement gets more serious. The DOT may issue serious fines for violations of the DOT hazmat regulations. Airlines may also report your company if they find that you have violated the DOT regulations.

Violations of HAZMAT regulations can also result in criminal penalties, although the specifics vary on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, violating IATA or DOT regulations can make life very hard and very expensive for companies that ignore them.

IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and You

IATA dangerous goods regulations can have a significant impact on your business. While the IATA regulations aren't traditional laws, they do have substantial crossover with DOT regulations. Violating those DOT regs can cost you in fines and may open you up to criminal charges.

Beyond that, many airlines use the IATA as their guidebook for dangerous materials transport. Failure to follow them can create problems with the airlines that move your products.

Compliance Training Online offers both IATA and DOT HAZMAT courses. If your employees need training, contact Compliance Training Online today.



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