Tips for Finding the Perfect Shipping Barrel for Your Needs

Commercial delivery cargo

If you have been in business for some time, you know how complicated and exhausting it can be to find suitable barrels or drums—or any packaging, for that matter—for your transport needs. It can be even more frustrating if you are transporting materials that are flammable, hazardous, or marked as dangerous in any other way. Here are some tips on how to find the perfect shipping barrel, regarding material, size, and type.

Why Shipping Barrels (or Drums)?

Using barrels (or drums) is one of the most practical and cheapest ways to transport your products. Depending on the types of products—whether they are hazardous, dry/general products, pharmaceuticals or fragile/valuable products—the material of the barrel you use will vary.

In the case of hazardous goods, defined by international regulations as anything “radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive, oxidizing, asphyxiating, biohazardous, toxic, pathogenic, or allergenic,” which includes physical conditions such as compressed gases and liquids or hot materials, you should know the right type of standardized and UN approved barrels. Barrels are commonly used for transporting oils, fuels, chemicals, and dry goods.

Depending on what kind of products you are transporting, there are many rules you are obliged to follow on the material used to construct the barrel. Utilize a smart strategy regarding the size of barrels so you won’t lose money and time in the transport process.

Two Basic Types of Barrels

Open-head barrels are commonly also known as 1A2 barrels. They have covers that are easily removable and are typically closed with either a lever lock or bolt rings. These types of barrels are usually used to transport solids and thicker liquids. Open-top barrels may be precisely what you need due to their practical application.

For example, if you need to transport goods from a home to another home, this is the choice you should consider. You can easily maneuver goods inside and arrange them in the most suitable way possible.

In case you are transporting thicker fluids, use an open-head drum with a lever lock ring closure. If you want to transport solids or general goods, the better solution is a bolt ring closure.

Tight-head drums, also known as closed-head drums, are commonly used to transport fluids with a lower viscosity, due to their non-removable cover with bung openings on top. The standard width of the bungs is two and ¾ inches.

Red oil drums on a shipping ramp

Barrel Materials and Their Application

Plastic barrels are commonly used to store hazardous or non-hazardous liquids. These drums must be made from the highest quality of plastic, and they typically hold between 15 and 55 gallons of liquid. The most common sizes are 15, 30, and 55 gallons.

Steel drums are divided into open head and closed head. Open-head steel drums are good for storage and transport of hazardous and non-hazardous products. These durable containers provide maximum protection, ensuring the contents will not spill out.

When shipping dangerous and hazardous materials, it is advised you use a closed-head or tight-head steel drum. These drums add an extra element of safety, ensuring the purity and compatibility of materials.

Fiberboard drums are cost-effective and are more environmentally friendly. They come in a variety of diameters and heights. These drums are recommended for the storage of dry and/or solid materials because they are easy to open and close, making it convenient to fill and dispense materials. You can find fiberboard drums in either lock-rim or all-fiber. Both can be used to transport a variety of materials, but only the lock-rim can be used for hazardous and dangerous goods.

Cylinder shape container of Radioactive material

Hazardous Materials

Shipping dangerous or hazardous goods requires more forethought and planning. It’s not just big barrels of chemicals that count as dangerous goods. You might be surprised to know that aerosols, perfume, or anything containing lithium batteries, such as phones or laptops, are also considered dangerous goods.

Essentially, anything that “when not handled properly, could harm you, the driver, recipient, other shipments, or the environment” falls under the category of dangerous goods.

Dangerous goods, or hazardous materials, are divided into nine classes and a few sub-classes:

  1. Explosive substances like fireworks and flares.
  2. Gas: flammable, non-flammable, and toxic.
  3. Flammable liquids like solvents or paints.
  4. Flammable solids, substances liable to spontaneous combustion, substances that emit flammable gases when in water.
  5. Oxidizing substances like fertilizer and organic peroxides.
  6. Toxic, infectious, and biological substances.
  7. Radioactive material.
  8. Corrosive substances like bleach or drain cleaner.
  9. Miscellaneous, including lithium batteries.

When transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT) or dangerous goods, it is imperative you thoroughly understand the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) regulations. You may need a UN certification when transporting such goods internationally.


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