Hazmat Freight Rates: Why Location Matters


If you work for a company with regular transportation needs, you’re no stranger to the complexities accompanying every shipment. 

Having your documents in order, enabling timely communication between stakeholders, hosting RFQs, negotiating fuel surcharges and managing your dock schedule are only a handful of the tasks you oversee for every load. 

That said, hazmat shipments are even more complex. And, in many cases, these shipments end up being more expensive for a couple of specific reasons. 

As a company with cargo to distribute and a budget to maintain, you can’t leave anything to chance — particularly when shipping hazmat freight. 

So, why are shipments of hazardous materials often more expensive to ship and why does geography, seemingly, play into this more prominently than with normal shipments?

After decades of shipping hazmat freight around the U.S., Mexico and Canada, here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we understand how intricate these loads can be — and how frustrated you could get without proper understandings and expectations. 

That’s why, in this article, we’ll cover why hazmat freight is more expensive, how location plays into this and two things you can do to make these shipments easier on your mind (and budget) going forward. 

Why Are Hazmat Freight Rates (Generally) Higher?

Anytime a shipment requires specialization — on behalf of a driver or the equipment used to haul it — its pool of viable transportation options shrinks. The transportation industry, like most others, sees its prices influenced by supply and demand.

Commonly referred to as a load-to-truck ratio, the price you pay to move cargo depends on the current balance between supply and demand in your pickup and drop locations. 

Hazmat loads are more specialized than most other shipments; they require a hazmat-certified truck driver.

As a result, the overall supply of transportation options for hazmat freight in any given area is far smaller than on a normal full-truckload shipment. In turn, the competition for this limited pool of for-hire drivers rises as hazmat-certified truck drivers exercise greater bargaining power. 

In the end, a hazmat shipment can cost up to 25 percent more than a shipment with identical details (timeline, lane, weather, appointment requirements, etc.) that isn’t hazardous.   

How Does Location Impact Your Hazmat Rates? 

Like other shipments, your origin and destination locations will impact the price you pay to ship hazmat freight. However, the concentration of for-hire hazmat carriers varies greatly from one location to the next. 

Here is a list of states with a higher density of outbound hazmat freight, which may lower the rate of sending your hazmat cargo into them:

  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Mississippi
  • Georgia
  • New Jersey
  • California

These states are considered “hubs” for hazmat freight, offering opportunities for hazmat drivers to make a consistent paycheck for their services. 

Beyond these states, any manufacturing center — such as Detroit, Chicago or St. Louis — is a competitive location for hazmat shipping. Large international ports are another hazmat-certification hotbed, making places like Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Portland and Boston rich with hazmat transportation options. 

You’ll find that sending hazmat freight to these kinds of destinations will come at a relaxed rate because your trucking company will have plenty of options for keeping their truck productive following your delivery. 

However, shipping freight out of a hazmat demand-rich area toward a less desirable location will, in many instances, cost more. 

Some examples of locations that are less desirable and, in turn, will cost you more money to ship out of/to are:

  • The Midwest
  • Rural locations
  • The Northwest
  • Hard-to-reach/mountainous areas

2 Tips For Smooth Hazmat Shipments

Without a regular cadence of hazmat shipments, no location will have a pool of hazmat-certified drivers to source capacity through. However, keeping your hazmat shipments on track and within budget isn’t impossible. Here are three things you can control going forward, regardless of geography: 

  1. Provide adequate lead time
  2. Make sure your paperwork is in order

1. Provide Adequate Lead Time 

Lead time is the notice you give your transportation providers prior to the moment your shipment needs to pick up. The more time you give your providers, the easier it is to secure a cost-effective, timely solution for your freight. 

In most cases, a lead time of 24-48 hours is great. With this notice, your provider can begin getting the pieces in place for successful transit. For hazmat shipments, we recommend giving as much as 72 hours of lead time. 

Since hazmat-certified drivers make up a small portion of the transportation solutions in an area, it’s important that your provider (be it a 3PL, freight broker or asset carrier) has plenty of time to line one up for your load. 

2. Make Sure Everything is in Order for Your Shipment

Hazmat shipments are dangerous and must be overseen correctly. Since these shipments pose a risk to the motoring public, the rules for transporting them must be followed to a “t.”

To ensure your hazmat loads go off without a hitch, it’s important to understand what’s expected of you as a shipper so you can get everything in order for successful transit. 

Here are the most important things you need to do for every hazmat shipment:

  • Have all of your documentation in order:
    • Bills of lading
    • Documents complete with your proper UN number, hazmat classification, quantity, product descriptions and packing groups
  • Provide the proper placards to attach to the outside of the truck
    • Understand when placards are needed and when they’re not
  • Put proper labels and markings on the outside of all packaging 
  • Provide handling instructions for your carrier to follow and robust cargo details

With the proper information and documentation in hand, your carrier can move your hazmat freight without incident and/or delay. This will actually help you save money in the long run as carriers like to work with companies that make their jobs easier. 

Check Out the Ultimate Guide to Hazmat Freight Shipping

Now that you understand how location impacts the price of hazmat transportation coverage, you won’t be blindsided by unexpected rate hikes in the future. To navigate this territory, it’s important to work with a great network of transportation providers; companies with the resources and experience to meet your needs, even on short notice. 

Here is a free Freight Carrier Selection Checklist to help you pick these types of companies from the field. Download it for free and make sure the companies you give your business can seamlessly meet your needs. 

Look, shipping hazmat freight is dangerous. That’s why it’s crucial to arm yourself with the tools to make educated decisions for these loads. So, your next step (after downloading that checklist, of course) is to read through this Ultimate Guide to Hazmat Freight Shipping where you’ll find a comprehensive breakdown of everything you need to consider when shipping your next hazardous load.

Finally, if you’re looking for some assistance with any of your shipments in the future, we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here and we’ll make sure you receive industry-leading customer service and advice.

Tags: Spot Rate Pricing, Hazardous Freight Shipping

Aaron Campbell

Written by Aaron Campbell

In July 2021, Aaron joined ATS Logistics' Greenville, South Carolina office as a national sales representative. Aaron's dedication to customer service, problem-solving skills and work ethic have made him a leader at ATS Logistics and an asset to every shipper he works with.

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