Shipping Hazmat Items with USPS: Everything E-commerce Merchants Need to Know
*Editors note: As of July 9th, 2023, USPS is requiring all shippers to declare whether or not their package is classified as HAZMAT at the time of label purchase. Shippo users can do this with a click of a button. All information below is still applys. To learn more, check out our latest USPS HAZMAT shipping blog.
Complying with carrier regulations – and staying up to date on which and how rules change – is a crucial responsibility when running an e-commerce business. While compliance might not be the most glamorous of topics, it can make or break your ability to ship products to your customers in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective way. Falling out of line with compliance rules can cost you time, money, and your customer’s satisfaction. It can also impact – as we’ll cover here – the health and safety of others.
We here at Shippo understand the importance of adhering to the rules and regulations carriers set in place (trust us – it’s all for good reason!). Because of this, we strive to bring you the most transparent, up-to-date compliance information so that you’re prepared to meet any new requirements or restrictions that go into effect.
The USPS recently announced changes to its Hazmat package rules, which – in addition to existing rules for shipping hazardous materials and required Hazmat warning labels (find the full list of what’s considered hazardous by USPS here) – are meant to minimize concerns for health and safety.
These changes focus on 2 main areas (if you’re looking for all the nitty gritty details, you can find them in this official document):
Increased visibility of Hazmat packages
USPS now requires clear separation (i.e. packages sorted into separate mail receptacles) between all Hazmat and non-Hazmat packages. This rule will increase the visibility of Hazmat packages to Post Office partners (**with the exception of mail entered at a Destination Delivery Unit (DDU), Destination Sectional Center Facility (DSCF) or Destination Network Distribution Center (DNDC).
Changes to packages containing lithium batteries
USPS will limit used/damaged/defective electronic devices containing lithium batteries to surface transportation only, prohibiting inbound and outbound international service. On top of that, USPS is requiring packages to be labeled “Restricted Electronic Device” and “Surface Transportation Only,” in addition to any other applicable markings required (note that this excludes electronic devices that are new in original unopened manufacturer packaging or manufacturer certified new/refurbished devises).
Both of these changes take effect immediately, and it’s important to remember that existing USPS rules will continue to be in effect. Customers who have questions about the existing or updated USPS rules around shipping Hazmat materials should reach out to Shippo’s shipping and compliance experts for more information.