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Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste Transportation

large truck photographHazardous waste transporters are individuals or entities that move hazardous waste from one site to another by highway, rail, water, or air. Hazardous waste transporters play an integral role in the hazardous waste management system by delivering hazardous waste from its point of generation to ultimate destination. This includes transporting hazardous waste from a generator's site to a facility that can recycle, treat, store or dispose of the waste. It can also include transporting treated hazardous waste to a site for further treatment or disposal.

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Who are the Regulated Hazardous Waste Transporters?

Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines a hazardous waste transporter as any person engaged in the off-site transportation of the hazardous waste within the United States. Off-site transportation of hazardous waste includes shipments from a hazardous waste generator’s facility or property to another facility for treatment, storage, or disposal (TSDF).

Transporter regulations do not apply to the on-site transportation of hazardous waste within a facility’s property or boundary. Examples of on-site transportation includes both:

  • Generators and TSDFs transporting waste within their facilities, or on their own property, and
  • Transportation among geographically contiguous properties, even if the properties are separated by a public road.

In contrast, transporter requirements apply to shipments of hazardous waste between noncontiguous properties that require travel on public roads.

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Requirements for Transporters

Because hazardous waste transporters move regulated wastes on public roads, highways, rails, and waterways, EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) jointly developed the hazardous waste transporter regulations.

A transporter of hazardous waste is subject to several regulations under RCRA, outlined in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 263, including:

  • Obtaining an EPA Identification (ID) Number

    EPA keeps track of hazardous waste transporters by requiring each transportation company to obtain an EPA ID number. A transporter is forbidden from transporting hazardous waste if they do not have an ID number. Unlike generator EPA ID numbers, which are site-specific, transporter ID numbers are assigned to the transportation company as a whole. This means that each individual truck uses the number issued to the company’s headquarters location and does not receive its own unique number.

  • Complying with EPA’s Hazardous Waste Manifest System

    EPA’s hazardous waste manifest system is designed to track hazardous waste from the time it leaves the generator facility where it was produced, until it reaches the off-site waste management facility that will store, treat or dispose of the hazardous waste. The manifesting responsibilities vary depending on the mode of transportation (highway, water, rail or air).

    With the exception of certain small quantity generator (SQG) recycling wastes, a transporter may not accept hazardous waste from a generator unless the transporter is provided a properly prepared manifest. When receiving the waste, the transporter must sign and date the manifest to acknowledge receipt and return a copy to the generator before leaving the generator’s property.

    With the exception of water and rail shipments, a copy of the manifest must accompany a copy of the shipment of waste at all times. Once a transporter accepts a waste, the transporter is required to deliver the entire quantity of waste to the next designated transporter or facility. When the waste arrives at its next destination, the transporter must have the manifest signed and dated by the recipient. The transporter must keep a copy of the manifest for three years.

    Differences for Water and Rail Shipments

    Water and rail transporters must comply with the directions on the manifest, obtain an EPA ID number, and be listed on the manifest like highway and air shipments. However, the manifest is not required to physically accompany these shipments at all times. Instead, water and rail transporters can use another shipping document instead of the manifest, provided that it contains the same information as the manifest. Additionally,

    • The initial water or rail transporter must sign and date the manifest or shipping document and ensure that it reaches the designated facility, and the final water or rail transporter must ensure that the owner and operator of the designated facility signs the manifest or shipping paper.
    • Intermediate water and rail transporters are not required to sign the manifest or shipping paper.

    Exemption for Transporters of Certain Recycled or Reclaimed Hazardous Wastes Generated by Small Quantity Generators (SQG)

    A special exemption from the manifest requirements exists for transporters who handle certain recycled (or reclaimed) wastes generated by SQGs (See 40 CFR section 263.20 (h)). This exemption is intended to facilitate the recycling of small quantities of hazardous wastes that are transported in a protective manner.

    To qualify for this exemption:

    • The waste must be reclaimed under a contractual agreement between the SQG and a recycling facility;
    • The transporter must record, on shipping or logging paper, the name, address and EPA ID number for the generator of the waste; the quantity of waste accepted; the date the waste is accepted; and all U.S. DOT-required shipping information;
    • The transporter must carry the shipping paper or log when transporting waste to the reclamation facility; and
    • The vehicle used to transport this waste must be owned and operated by the recycling facility as described in 40 CFR section 262.20 (e)(1)(ii).

      Both the generator and the transporter are responsible for keeping a copy of the reclamation agreement on file for three years after the agreement ends.

  • Handling Hazardous Waste Discharges

    If a transporter discharges or spills hazardous waste, he or she is required to take appropriate, immediate action to protection human health and the environment such as notifying local authorities or diking the discharge area. Additionally:

    • If immediate removal of the waste is necessary to protect human health or the environment, then a federal, state or local official may authorize the removal of the waste by transporters who do not have EPA identification numbers and without the preparation of a manifest.
    • U.S. DOT may require a written report about the incident outlined in 49 CFR section 171.16.
    • When a serious accident or spill occurs, the transporter must notify the National Response Center (NRC) by phone as required by U.S. DOT or the Superfund regulations.
    • A transporter must clean up a hazardous waste discharge so that the hazardous waste discharge no longer presents a hazard to human health or the environment.
  • Obeying All Applicable U.S. DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations

    To avoid discrepancies and redundant regulations, the hazardous waste transporter regulations adopted portions of the U.S. DOT regulations for the safe transport of DOT classified hazardous materials. The DOT references include requirements for labeling, marking, placarding, and containers, and the DOT requirements referenced above for responding to spills. Transporters of hazardous waste should consult and comply with all applicable requirements in the U.S. DOT regulations.


Transfer Facilities

Transporters accepting hazardous waste from a generator or another transporter may need to hold waste temporarily during the normal course of transportation. A transfer facility is defined as any transportation-related facility, such as loading docks, parking areas, storage areas, and other similar areas where shipments are temporarily held. A hazardous waste transporter may hold waste without a storage permit in containers at a transfer facility for 10 days or less as long as the waste is manifested and kept in U.S. DOT specification containers. Storage in stationary containers is prohibited unless the transfer facility has a RCRA permit or interim status.

If a transporter stores waste in containers at a transfer facility for more than 10 days, the transfer facility becomes a storage facility subject to all applicable requirements for treatment, storage and disposal facilities.

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Importing and Exporting Hazardous Waste and Transporters

The regulations governing imports and exports of hazardous waste are primarily found in 40 CFR part 262, subpart E, the section for hazardous waste generators. However, transporters are required to comply with these regulations if they import hazardous waste into the United States.

There are some additional export requirements for transporters found in 40 CFR section 263.20. Transporters who transport hazardous waste out of the United States must:

  • Sign and date the manifest in the International Shipments block to indicate the date that the shipment left the United States;
  • Retain one copy in accordance with 40 CFR section 263.22(d);
  • Return a signed copy of the manifest to the generator; and
  • Give a copy of the manifest to a U.S. Customs official at the point of departure from the United States.

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Frequent Questions

  • What is the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest?

    The Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest is a form prepared by all generators who transport, or offer for transport, hazardous waste for off-site treatment, recycling, storage, or disposal. Prior to June 30, 2018, the manifest was a paper document containing multiple copies of a single form. When completed, it contains information on the type and quantity of the waste being transported, instructions for handling the waste, and signature lines for all parties involved in the disposal process. To transition from a paper-intensive process to an electronic system, EPA launched a national IT system on June 30, 2018, called the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest (e-Manifest) System for tracking hazardous waste shipments electronically. Waste handlers may use this system in lieu of the paper manifest to electronically track their waste shipments from cradle-to-grave nationwide.

    To learn more about the e-Manifest system, please visit EPA’s e-Manifest web page.

  • According to the instructions for Item 13 of the manifest regarding the waste code fields, up to six federal and state waste codes may be recorded in the spaces provided. If the generator has more than six waste codes, where can the generator enter the additional codes on the manifest?

    Although it was the intent of the rule to try to minimize the practice of entering any and all possible waste codes that might be implicated for a waste stream, we believe generators will use Item 14 to list items of significance to them, such as waste profile data and Emergency Response manual codes. So, if a generator wishes to include additional waste codes in Item 14, they can do so. However, states cannot use Item 14 to mandate the inclusion of additional waste codes beyond the "six per waste stream" that are required in Item 13. Please be aware that the manifest serves as a transportation tracking document rather than a full report of all waste codes. Therefore, the limitation of waste codes applicable to the manifest does not apply to other reporting documents that are federally required by EPA. Therefore, generators and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities are not excused from the reporting requirements of the “mixture and derived-from” rule, the Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR), nor any other waste characterization or testing requirement that generators or facilities may be subject to in order to profile, treat, or manage their wastes.

  • Can a generator authorize a transporter to add selected additional transporters to the hazardous waste manifest after they have signed the manifest and shipped the waste?

    A generator can authorize a transporter to add selected additional transporters to the hazardous waste manifest transporter in circumstances of an emergency, as well as for purposes of transporter efficiency, convenience, and safety after they have signed the manifest and shipped the waste. A generator, however, must grant the transporter authority via some contractual arrangement to act as the agent of the generator with respect to adding or substituting other transporters while hazardous waste is in transport (Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 263.21(b)(3)). The transporter making such changes must record the following statement regarding its contractual authorization in Item 14 of each manifest for which such a change is made, ‘‘Contract retained by generator confers agency authority on initial transporter to add or substitute additional transporters on generator’s behalf.’’

    Transporters who do not have contractual authorization from the generator must obtain approval from the generator before making changes to the chain of transportation (40 CFR Section 263.21(b)(2)). Although a generator may grant a transporter authority to act as the agent on his or her behalf to make changes to transporter designations on the manifest, the generator remains liable and responsible with respect to those changes and with complying with any applicable generator requirements under 40 CFR part 262. In addition, this granted authority does not provide any additional authority to the transporter to make changes to the manifest on behalf of the generator without prior approval from the generator (e.g., changes to the receiving facility designated in Item 8 of the manifest) (40 CFR Section 263.21(b)(4)).

  • Who must sign the generator/offeror certification (Item 15) on the hazardous waste manifest? Does this person have any personal liability for the hazardous waste?

    The hazardous waste manifest must be signed by the generator but does not specify who must sign the certification if the generator is not an individual. The regulations define a generator as any person, by site, whose act or process produces hazardous waste, or whose act first causes a hazardous waste to become subject to regulation. The term person includes corporations, partnerships, and other legal entities for which some individual must sign the certification. EPA did not intend this requirement to impose personal liability on the individual who signs the certification (Volume 51 of the Federal Register pages 35190, 35192; October 1, 1986). An entity other than a generator employee (e.g., transporter or treatment, storage and disposal facility) may sign on-behalf-of the generator, if that entity:

    1. has a contractual arrangement with the generator that permits it to act as an offeror of the shipment; and
    2. can certify compliance with all applicable pre-transportation requirements at the time the hazardous material is staged for loading, and the waste has been properly packaged, marked and labeled and is in proper condition for transportation.

    If an entity signs the manifest as an offeror, it does not assume the more extensive liabilities of generators for the hazardous waste. Instead, it assumes only the more limited responsibilities (for the pre-transportation functions) and the distinct liability that attaches to the offeror status.

  • Does EPA currently collect manifests?

    Yes. However, prior to the adoption of the e-Manifest Final rules and the launching of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System, federal regulations did not require the routine submission of manifests to EPA, except when there were problems with a shipment which the generator and receiving facility could not reconcile. Additionally, the hazardous waste regulatory program has been largely delegated to the state level, so most day-to-day implementation and inspection activities are carried out by "authorized states", rather than by EPA. Roughly 30 States routinely collect manifests, and these State programs now enter the data contained in these paper manifests into their databases for tracking purposes. The enactment of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest (e-Manifest) Establishment Act changed both EPA’s and state’s roles with manifests as the e-Manifest Act extends to all federally and state-regulated wastes requiring manifests.

    The enactment of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act on October 5, 2012, authorized EPA to establish a national e-Manifest system to track hazardous waste shipments and granted EPA authority to adopt regulations that 1) accept electronic-manifests in addition to the existing paper manifests and 2) set up user fees to offset the costs of developing and operating the e-Manifest system. EPA promulgated its first e-Manifest final rule, published on February 7, 2014, known as the “One Year Rule” which established the legal and policy framework for the use of electronic manifests. EPA promulgated its second e-Manifest final rule on January 3, 2018, which established the user fees and other actions necessary to establish the system. This rule also required receiving facilities designated on the manifest to receive shipments of waste to submit the top copies of the manifest to EPA and pay fees for those submissions.

    EPA launched the e-Manifest system on June 30, 2018. The effect of the launching of the e-Manifest system and adoption of the e-Manifest rules has changed both EPA’s and the authorized state’s roles for manifest collection and tracking. While the states’ day-to-day implementation and inspection activities are unchanged, their role in collection of manifests has changed. Specifically, the receiving facility copies of manifests may only be collected by e-Manifest, and not directly by the states. States will obtain their receiving facility data from the e-Manifest system rather than from the facilities. For electronic manifests, the EPA system will collect and retain all handler copies from generators, transporters, and receiving facilities. Since states can obtain any handler copy of an electronic manifest from the e-Manifest system, states cannot require generators or other waste handlers to supply a paper or other copy of electronic manifests directly to the states. States, however, may continue to collect generator or transporter copies of paper manifest after e-Manifest launches. EPA does not collect and process the generator and transporter copies of paper manifests in e-Manifest. This includes generator copies of any paper manifest.

    For further details on the scope of e-Manifest, user fees, and other aspects of the e-Manifest program, please visit EPA’s e-Manifest web page.

  • Who is responsible for the Hazardous Waste Manifest?

    The current Hazardous Waste Manifest is a joint undertaking by EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT). EPA is responsible for regulating hazardous waste under a Federal statute known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This Act requires that all hazardous waste shipped off-site be tracked from "cradle-to-grave" using a manifest (paper or electronic) that provides information about the generator of the waste, the facility that will receive the waste, a description and quantity of the waste (including the number and type of containers), and how the waste will be routed to the receiving facility. Because hazardous waste is also regulated by the DOT under its hazardous materials laws, the Manifest was developed to meet both EPA’s requirements for a manifest, and DOT’s requirements for "shipping papers."

  • Does a hazard waste manifest need to accompany an off-site shipment of waste samples to a laboratory for waste characterization?

    A manifest does not need to accompany an off-site shipment of waste samples to a laboratory for testing (Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) section 261.4(d)). EPA excludes samples of wastes from the requirements of 40 CFR Parts 262 through 268, 270, 124, and the notification requirements of section 3010 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, provided that the samples are collected and shipped for the sole purpose of testing  to determine its hazardous waste characteristics or composition. Storage and transportation associated with the testing of the sample are excluded from regulation even when the testing is complete, provided the sample is returned to the generator, and the specific provisions of 40 CFR section 261.4(d) are met (40 CFR section 261.4(d)(1)). In addition, when shipping the sample to or from the laboratory, the sample collector or lab personnel must comply with certain labeling requirements, as well as any applicable U.S. Postal Service or Department of Transportation shipping requirements (40 CFR section 261.4(d)(2)).

    Additional guidance regarding the samples exclusion is available in the following documents: 

    • Memo, Bussard to Prior; August 11, 1994 (RCRA Online #11866).
    • Memo, Wilson to Environmental Compliance Managers; June 5, 1989 (RCRA Online #13291).
    • Memo, Straus to Rideout; April 27, 1989 (RCRA Online #11428).
    • Memo, Barnes to Landrum; March 31, 1989 (RCRA Online #13269).
    • Memo, Barnes to Steele; August 11, 1988 (RCRA Online #11362).
    • Memo, Horner to Citizen; July 31, 1985 (RCRA Online #12438).
    • Memo, Horner to Citizen; January 23, 1985 ( RCRA Online #11053).

    The documents listed above are available in the RCRA Online Database.

  • What is a transfer facility? How are transportation facilities regulated under RCRA?

    A transfer facility is any transportation related facility including loading docks, parking areas, storage areas and other similar areas where shipments of hazardous waste are held during the normal course of transportation (Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) section 260.10). A transfer facility is not required to operate under a RCRA storage permit if the hazardous waste is being stored during the normal course of transportation and the waste is manifested, kept in DOT specification containers, and stored less than ten days at the transfer facility (40 CFR 263.12). A transporter may not store hazardous waste in stationary tanks and still take advantage of the reduced transfer facility requirements because such tanks are not portable (Monthly Call Center Report Question; June 1996 RCRA Online #13786). If the waste is held for more than ten days at a particular location, the transfer facility must obtain a RCRA permit, and the transporter must comply with all applicable storage standards and permit requirements (Memo, Lowrance to Duprey; June 7, 1990 RCRA Online #11520). 

    The regulations referenced above are available online in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

    Additional guidance regarding transfer facilities is available in the following documents: 

    Memo, Shapiro to Regions; October 17, 1994 (RCRA Online #11881).
    Memo, Shapiro to Dickhut; August 17, 1994 (RCRA Online #13692).
    Memo, Petruska to Igli; June 21, 1994 (RCRA Online #11846).
    Monthly Call Center Report Question; November 1991 (RCRA Online #13511).
    Memo, Lowrance to Ullrich; October 30, 1990 (RCRA Online #11567).
    Memo, Stoll to Eastwood; April 10, 1986 (RCRA Online #12611).

    The documents listed above are available in the RCRA Online Database.

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Key Resources and Documents

If you are interested in learning more about regulations for hazardous waste transporters, the below resources may be of help:

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