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Avoiding Toxic Challenges With Chemical Transloading

Warning signs attached to a tanker trailer
Avoiding Toxic Challenges With Chemical Transloading
Chemical transloading is very useful when shippers need to send chemicals to somewhere far away. Discover more about how this useful service works.
By Jacob Lee
 | February 22, 2023
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Last Modified: March 28, 2024

Chemical transloading is a great service to use when shippers need multiple modes of transportation to move their goods. Shippers can use this service at any point during the journey of their shipment. However, there are aspects of this service that shippers will have to understand before using.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), trailers carrying chemicals will need to have a corresponding trailer code. Chemical transloading can be performed when shippers need to move freight between trucks, rail, and barge transportation. Using this will help shippers save money when moving their chemical goods.

We’ll explain the intricacies of chemical transloading so you’ll know what to expect when using this service. 

What Is Chemical Transloading? 

Chemical transloading is a service that shippers use when they need to move their chemical shipment from one mode of transportation to another. There are many reasons that shippers might use chemical transloading.

Some of these reasons include:

  • Cost effectiveness
  • Necessity

Transloading is more cost effective because certain modes of transportation are cheaper than others. For example, rail car transportation is cheaper than truck, and barge is cheaper than rail. While a truck will probably have to perform the final delivery of the chemicals, barge or rail transport can be used to carry the goods most of the way. 

In some cases, transloading might need to be done out of necessity. Some destinations might not have railroads or rivers that reach them. Therefore, transloading from barge or rail to a truck earlier in the journey might be necessary. 

Regardless of the reason shippers use this service, they can count on chemical transloading to get their goods to the final destination. 

Check out our article on bulk liquid transloading to discover the generalities of liquid transload services.   

A liquid bulk barge that has docked for loading

How Are Chemicals Transported?

Chemicals can be transported using a variety of different methods. Based on the mode of transportation, various types of specialized equipment and vehicles will need to be used to move them.

The types of transportation and associated vehicles and equipment used for chemical transport include:

  • Barge – Tanker barges 
  • Rail – Tanker car
  • Truck – Tanker trailer

These types of vehicles and equipment are fairly similar to one another in how they function. 


Tanker barges can have a few different design features becausenumerous chemicals can be transported by water to a bulk transloading facility. To accommodate the needs of these different chemicals, barges are designed to transport specific types of chemicals.

Barges can come in the following types of designs:

  • Oil barges 
  • Fuel oil barges
  • Liquefied gas
  • Pressure tank barge
  • Chemical barges

Chemical barges are designed to carry hazardous materials within them. These barges have pneumatic systems that allow chemicals to be pumped in and out.


When chemicals need to be transported by rail, tanker cars are the equipment that’s used to carry them. These types of rail cars are cylindrical shaped and are quite large. Tanker cars have quite a few different design features that allow them to carry various chemicals within them.

These design features include:

  • High-capacity pressure relief valve
  • Top fittings protection
  • Steel tank
  • Head shields
  • Bottom outlet handles
  • Jacket & thermal protection

Tanker rail cars can either be non-pressurized or pressurized. Hazmat chemicals can be transported within the confines of non-pressurized tanker. If a shipper needs to transport compressed gasses in liquid form, then a pressurized tanker will be required. 


Chemicals transported by truck travel within the confines of a chemical tanker trailer. These types of trailers are very similar to tanker cars because of their cylindrical shape. Based on the type of chemical being transported, the Department of Transportation (DOT) might require a special code for the trailer. 

These codes are:

  • DOT 406 – This code is used for petroleum products, but can also be used for water and milk
  • DOT 407 – This code is used for hauling mild acids or products that are combustible
  • DOT 412 – This code is for corrosives and very heavy goods

Shippers will have to determine what type of chemicals they’re shipping off so that the carrier transporting their goods can use the correct DOT trailer code. 

Check out our article on transloading butane to learn how to transfer this gas between different modes of transport. 

A long row of tanker cars

How Are Chemicals Transloaded Between Modes of Transport?

While the modes of transport might vary, the way chemicals are transloaded between one mode of transport to another is fairly similar. State-of-the-art equipment paired with safety practices is what makes transloading chemicals possible. 

Tanker trailers require two pieces of equipment to transfer chemicals between different modes of transport. 

  • Pumps
  • Compressors

These trailers can be loaded/unloaded from the top or bottom. If a tanker is loaded from the bottom, then valves and fittings located beneath the trailer are used to extract the chemicals. In the case of top loading/unloading, a hose running from the manhole on top of the tank will be used to extract the chemicals. 

As for tanker rail cars, the methods for loading and unloading rail cars differ based on whether the tanker holding the chemicals is pressurized or non-pressurized. 

  • Pressurized tank car unloading: Secure valves with a protected housing extracts chemicals
  • Non-pressurized tank car: An outlet is secured to the bottom of the tanker where the chemicals will go out of it

Tanker barges are loaded and unloaded using hoses and pumping systems that move chemicals in and out of the vessel. When transloading between modes of transport, chemicals have to be briefly stored. 

The storage period is brief and occurs after chemicals are unloaded from one mode of transport and before they’re loaded into another. 

Chemicals are stored in:

  • Drums
  • Vats
  • Containers

Once loading can be performed, the chemicals are pumped from where they’re stored to the next mode of transport. 

What Are the Hazards of Transloading Chemicals?

There are numerous hazards associated with transloading chemicals. Both carriers and transloading personnel have to handle chemicals carefully due to the various health risks they pose.

Some reasons chemicals can be dangerous include:

  • Corrosiveness
  • Poisonous
  • Toxic vapors
  • Carcinogenic effects

Workers follow various rules to keep themselves safe when they’re transloading chemicals between modes of transportation. In some cases, truck drivers will have to participate in transloading operations. 

Some of the rules that must be followed when moving chemicals include:

  • Checking equipment
  • Wearing protective clothing
  • Ensuring that hoses are connected securely

These are basic safety procedures, but others can vary based on the chemicals being transloaded and the modes of transport involved.  

If you need transload for more conventional types of freight, then read our article on floor loaded transload to discover the benefits of this service.

A liquid bulk barge that is preparing for chemical transloading

What Chemicals Can Be Transloaded?

Any chemical that’s transported within a tanker barge, rail car ,or trailer can be transloaded from one form of transport to another. In the U.S., there is a strong demand for chemicals by various industries, with numerous shipments made each year. 

Value of Chemical Shipments In the US (2018-2021)

YearValue of Chemical Shipments

Provided by Statista

While there are many chemicals transported in the U.S., some of the most popular include:

  • Gasoline
  • Diesel fuel
  • Propylene
  • Soda ash

Shipments of these chemicals and many others can be transloaded when dictated by the shipper. That said, some chemicals will have to be handled more carefully based on what they are and the dangers associated with them. 

Our article on transloading soda ash will provide you with information on this useful service.

Transload Services USA Can Transload Your Chemical Shipments

Transload Services USA has you covered for all of your transloading needs. With facilities located all across the U.S., we’re able to offer our help to shippers and carriers with a variety of services. 

Some of the services that we perform include:

  • Cross docking
  • Freight consolidation
  • Freight rework

Cross docking is a useful service when you don’t have time to store goods. This service will quickly move your freight from an inbound truck to an outbound truck. Freight consolidation also allows shippers to combine two or more loads into one. 

Truckers who have been penalized with a rejected load will find our freight rework service extremely helpful. With this service, truckers can bring their rejected load to one of our warehouses where it will be fixed. If you’re interested in one of our services, then fill out your quote or give our team a call at (352) 282-4588 for more information.

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