A national program designed to increase awareness of consumers and businesses about the risks related to shipping dangerous goods has been launched by the largest trade association representing private mail and parcel shipping centers. At the same time, Associated Mail and Parcel Centers called for the industry to establish a Shipper Registry program to identify the sources of all packages dropped off for shipment.


While the overwhelming majority of our customers do not intentionally ship dangerous items, there have been recent incidents where hazardous, illegal, prohibited, dangerous and restricted (HIPDR) goods have threatened the logistic systems of the carriers, including their aircraft and trucks, says Brandon Gale, President of Associated Mail and Parcel Centers (AMPC), which represents more than 3,300 mail and parcel shipping locations nationally, all of them independently-owned small businesses. He cited research showing that of 29 million prepacked parcels presented for shipping at AMPC store member locations, one in 200 contained HAZMAT or prohibited/restricted/illegal contents in a recent 12-month period.


With heightened awareness about the contents of packages among consumers and businesses as a fact of life today in the United States, our new program also addresses these security concerns, Gale believes.


The new Ship Responsibly program, now being rolled out across the country by AMPC, is a major step in providing a solution to the dangerous goods shipping issue, said Gale.


With the current system of package drop offs that prohibits pack and ship retail store owners from opening and inspecting shipments charged to third party accounts, and the proliferation among the carriers of personal shipping accounts, its imperative that our industry take steps to educate our customers about the potential problems caused by the shipment of hazardous items, notes Gale, who pointed out that dangerous items are not always easy to recognize.


For example, certain types of cosmetics are considered hazardous when shipped by air because of their low flashpoints. Another potentially dangerous item is auto body paint, even in small quantities, which while seeming to be innocuous, is also classified as an HIPDR item when being shipped, explains Gale.


A recent survey revealed of 29 million prepacked parcels presented for shipping at AMPC store member locations in a recent 12-month period, one in every 200 potentially contained HAZMAT or prohibited/restricted/illegal contents, says Gale.


The survey found that among stores that opened and inspected parcels, 68% discovered HAZMAT or prohibited/illegal items being shipped up to 50% of the time, comments Gale, adding that overall, 76% of our members stores who open and inspect packages reported discovering hazardous materials or prohibited/illegal items.


In the absence of clear guidelines from the carriers on shipping HIPDR goods, AMPC developed a system of disclosure and accountability that has two major goals: enabling our members to demonstrate consistent due diligence in accepting and tendering packages for shipment, and increasing the publics awareness of their responsibilities to know if the items they are shipping are considered hazardous, says Gale.


Key to the Ship Responsibly program is package content disclosure by customer shippers. To facilitate this process, the program recommends the establishment of a standard policy requiring disclosure of the contents of pre-packaged parcels presented for shipment.


Were recommending an effective process that each of our member stores can implement immediately, shares Gale, who said that AMPC developed the Ship Responsibly program based on extensive consultation with legal experts and industry authorities.


To underscore the problem, Gale cites dangerous and tragic incidents involving packages shipped by individuals or businesses, without disclosing their contents. In July of 1997 a FedEx cargo plane crashed and caught fire at Newark (NJ) International Airport. The FAA finding: ignition of unknown hazardous material. The May 1996 Valujet crash in the Florida Everglades was attributed to a fire caused by improperly packaged oxygen canisters in the forward cargo hold.


More recently, a tractor battery that was not identified by the company sending it leaked acid in a carriers logistic system, including aircraft on which it was transported. In another instance, a carriers driver and others in the vicinity narrowly escaped serious injury when a computer backup power supply exploded as the package in which it was shipped was unloaded from a delivery truck.


The question of liability in shipping HIPDR goods is vague at best, and our new Ship Responsibly program is a major and much-needed step in protecting the public and our members, notes Gale.


AMPC is also calling for the establishment of a Shipper Registry to assist in identifying the sources of all packages dropped off for shipment at retail pack and shipment stores, said Gale. This would be different than existing Transportation Security Administrations Known Shipper program, he says. Using existing technology the industry can establish a data base to quickly and efficiently verify that customers meet certain criteria, and confirm the identity of people authorized to ship on a particular account. This is a crucial resource in further protecting the public from the inadvertent, or intentional, shipment of hazardous materials, explains Gale.


AMPC has begun distributing a Ship Responsibly Kit to its member locations that includes store counter mats and signage. The kit presents the theme Whats in Your Package? You Might Be Surprised, as well as an HIPDR disclosure notice that details items considered to be hazardous, illegal, prohibited, dangerous or restricted, and a customer Disclosure and Liability Release Form.


For more information on AMPCs Ship Responsibly program and proposed Shipper Registry, call 800-309-2672 or go to http://www.ampc.org/.


About AMPC


Associated Mail and Parcel Centers is the largest national trade association for private retail shipping centers, representing more than 3,300 Member-locations across the country. Founded in 1982, AMPC provides programs of advocacy, information, education/certification, and group representation for small business retailers specializing in mail and parcel shipping services. Its membership roster includes independent and franchise-affiliated (PakMail, Parcel Plus, Postal Connections, Postal Annex, Mailboxes, Etc., PostNet, The UPS Store), mail and parcel centers college and university book stores, auction consignment stores (eBay Trading Assistants), and self-storage centers. Member locations offer a combination of USPS, DHL, UPS, and FedEx shipping, packing services, and related retail and business products. Membership in AMPC is open to manufacturers, distributors, and retail stores whose businesses provide products and services associated with the mail and parcel shipping industry.