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Hazardous Commodities by U.S. DOT Classification

On average, about 7.5 percent of all loads moved by CSX are hazardous materials. The majority of the hazardous materials CSX moves are chemicals that are an important part of American commerce – for manufacturers, for businesses, and for consumers who use the products made from these chemicals. They are used in processes that create everyday products such as the dashboard of your car, liquid detergent, pharmaceuticals and gasoline. CSX also moves essential components for the U.S. military, for power companies, and for construction companies, as well as products that are crucial to the safe processing of food products and protecting water supplies. 

Here are examples of the types of products you can find within each of the U.S. Department of Transportation hazardous materials classifications. For more information about these classifications, visit their website

Class 1: Explosives

Explosives make up less than one percent of the hazardous materials that CSX moves. 

  • The vast majority of these carloads are for U.S. military operations, for both training and active duty operations. These shipments can include ammunition and other military materials. 
  • CSX also moves demolition charges for construction projects and flares for both military and commercial use.
Class 2: Gases

Compressed and liquefied gases make up about 18 percent of the hazardous materials that CSX moves. There are three types of gases in this category: toxic, flammable and non-flammable, all of which are transported in appropriate, safe containers. The safety of gases that the U.S. DOT classifies as hazardous is a major focus of CSX training for customers and first responders. 

  • About 70 percent of the liquefied or compressed gases transported are petroleum gases, which are more commonly known as propane and butane. These are often moved in a liquefied form, called liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, and are used as household energy sources for cooking, heating, appliances, and refrigeration. 
  • CSX also moves chlorine gas, which is used by municipal governments to disinfect water supplies, and is also an important chemical used to create everyday products including pharmaceuticals, computers, automobiles and aircraft parts. 
  • CSX also moves anhydrous ammonia, a common agricultural fertilizer and refrigerant.
Class 3: Flammable Liquids

Class 3 commodities are the highest-volume hazardous materials that CSX moves, making up about 50 percent of total hazardous materials carloads. 

  • Three quarters of the flammable liquids moved by CSX are two commonly-known energy sector commodities: petroleum crude oil and ethanol. The movement of crude oil by rail has significantly increased in recent years, as new technology has allowed the development of vast oil fields in North Dakota and other domestic regions. The crude oil moved by CSX is refined to make important consumer and industrial products including gasoline, fuel oil and lubricants. 
  • Ethanol is refined from plants, most commonly from corn. The government has mandated that ethanol be mixed into motor vehicle gasoline, as a means of promoting the use of renewable fuels. Most gasoline sold in the United States contains at least 10 percent ethanol. 
  • CSX also moves xylenes, which are used to make many types of plastic, including plastic bottles, polyester fabric, and rubber. 
Class 4: Other Flammable Substances

Class 4 products include commodities that are flammable solids, combustible or can be dangerous if they get wet. They make up about three percent of the hazardous materials that CSX moves.

  • About 95 percent of the Class 4 shipments that CSX moves are molten sulfur, which is used in the fertilizer that is critical to the U.S. agricultural industry. Molten sulfur is also the main ingredient in sulfuric acid, which is used to produce fertilizer, steel, synthetic fibers, petroleum, paper, automobile batteries, and many other products. 
  • CSX also moves pure sodium, which can be flammable when exposed to water. It is primarily used to create sodium borohydrate, a compound found in a wide array of pharmaceutical products.
Class 5: Oxidizing Substances & Organic Peroxides

Oxidizers and organic peroxides make up about two percent of the hazardous materials moving on CSX. 

  • More than half of the Class 5 shipments CSX moves are ammonium nitrate, a primary component in agricultural fertilizer. 
  • Sodium chlorate is the chemical used to bleach pulp in the production of high-quality paper. 
  • CSX also moves highly-concentrated hydrogen peroxide, which, in its diluted form, is the disinfectant found in hospitals and homes.
Class 6: Toxic (Poisonous) & Infectious Substances

Class 6 carloads make up about 2.5 percent of all hazardous materials movements on CSX. 

  • About 65 percent of Class 6 carloads are molten phenol, which is an important raw material for the chemical industry, wood processing and plastics processing. Phenol is also a component of nylon, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and sunscreen. 
  • Another Class 6 product is called toluene diisocyanate, which is used to produce the flexible polyurethane foam found in furniture, bedding, cars and homes.
Class 7: Radioactive Material

Radioactive carloads make up less than one tenth of one percent of hazardous materials moved by CSX. 

  • The vast majority of radioactive material moved by CSX is dirt from environmental remediation projects; for example, the excavated dirt from Superfund sites or other cleanups of historic environmental contamination. The dirt does not pose a threat to nearby communities while in its railroad container; however, proper handling and disposal in loading and unloading is important. 
  • CSX also moves a small number of radioactive carloads for the U.S. government, which are transported in very specialized containers.
Class 8: Corrosives

About 13 percent of the hazardous materials that CSX moves are corrosives. These materials are moved in specialized rail cars to prevent the product from corroding its container. 

  • The two most common Class 8 commodities are sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda or lye, which is used to produce paper, soaps, detergents and drain cleanser; and 
  • Sulfuric acid, a fertilizer component that is also used to make steel, synthetic fibers, petroleum, paper and many other products.
Class 9: Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials

Class 9 commodities make up about 11 percent of the hazardous materials that CSX moves. Class 9 covers hazardous materials that may not fit in other categories, including goods that become hazardous under certain circumstances. 

  • For example, asphalt – used for road and home construction – is transported at an elevated temperature so that it can flow once it reaches its final destination. 
  • Some sulfur is also moved as a Class 9, because in Canada, molten sulfur is classified as a Class 9 material and rail shipments of molten sulfur that originate in Canada will display Class 9 placards.


Please Note:
This content is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to fulfill regulatory disclosure or any other local, state or federal requirements. For regulatory matters and disclosure requests, or if you’re an emergency response, emergency planning or government official looking for more information about the hazardous materials CSX moves in your jurisdiction, please contact CSX at HazMatSafety@CSX.com.

First responders, learn more about AskRail, the railroad industry standard mobile web application with access to detailed information about trains in your jurisdiction, at www.askrail.us.