Dangerous Goods at the speed of eCommerce: 2021 DG Symposium speaker Cathy Roberson

Cathy Roberson believes more of her clients should ask her about Dangerous Goods. And she’s right.

Roberson runs Logistics Trends & Insights, LLC—a research and consulting company devoted to the global logistics market. Her research helps shippers cut through the noise to understand and address their most critical issues, yet many don’t even know how critical hazmat regulations can be to their operations.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what is a dangerous good,” she says. “Particularly in the eCommerce world.”

The eCommerce revolution continues to shake up the Dangerous Goods galaxy. Roberson will dive deeper into its many implications on September 24 at the 2021 Dangerous Goods Symposium with her session, Dangerous Goods and the eCommerce Effect. Here’s a sneak preview.

Players who don’t know they’re shipping hazmat

Where eCommerce and Dangerous Goods intersect, Roberson sees two major issues. The first issue is that eCommerce brings in a lot of new, smaller players who just don’t know they’re shipping hazmat.

Roberson points to a few examples where newer businesses may not know what they don’t know. “Hairspray and makeup—makeup in particular is a big item when it comes to eCommerce, where you have to be careful with the labeling and all the documentation that goes into shipping it. Also, items that require dry ice.”

She also refers to a 2019 IATA survey in which 40% of shippers admitted to being unaware of the Dangerous Goods regulations governing airfreight. “Shippers need to be more mindful that these are hazardous materials. And because eCommerce is growing at a much faster clip than traditional retail, they need to understand all the nuances involved.”

Speed, complexity and borders

The second issue with eCommerce and Dangerous Goods is that when everybody expects their shipments the next day or sooner, it puts pressure on every player in the supply chain to get things right—and get them right, right away.

“It seems like everything I write about is how you’ve got to do everything fast,” Roberson says. “Just get this stuff out as fast as you can.”

But speed is only one factor. Complexity is another challenge in what Roberson calls “an eCommerce slash multi-channel world.”

“That paperwork better be accurate, whether they’re having the items shipped to their store, shipped directly to a consumer or picked up at a third-party location,” she explains. “And then when you get into cross-border eCommerce, well that’s a whole different story.”

Roberson’s current expertise at cross-border eCommerce goes back to a previous job where she learned a lesson the hard way.

“One time it I had a shipment of makeup for an AAFES [Army & Air Force Exchange Service] facility in Italy. It was hung up at the border and I couldn’t understand why. So I finally ended up just picking up the phone, calling U.S. Customs to ask what I was doing wrong. Well, they were Dangerous Goods, and I didn’t fill out the form correctly!”

Whom can you trust?

Another challenge for newer eCommerce shippers is knowing whom to trust with information about Dangerous Goods transport. Lots of the content online is generated by individuals, companies, associations and other entities, so shippers can’t just Google the information they need. Where should they turn?

“This is where you trust your partnerships in the supply chain,” Roberson says. “Your carriers, your suppliers, your 3PLs and your freight forwarders. And organizations such as IATA and U.S. Customs. And even with an organization like IATA, you have to know to ask the “why.” Why is it being done that way? Can it be done better?

“I come from a library background, so I was taught to question everything.”

To hear more from Cathy Roberson and other insightful personalities in the DG supply chain, sign up for the DG Symposium!

The 2021 DG Symposium

“Dangerous Goods and the eCommerce Effect” is just one of the many virtual sessions you’ll want to experience during the 2021 DG Symposium, which kicks off September 13th.  This year’s event gives you free access to the biggest, most comprehensive line-up of Dangerous Goods experts we’ve ever presented. Here’s a partial list:

  • A top DG trainers’ panel
  • Domestic and international regulatory updates
  • A new session on DOT Audits
  • Updates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • “Convince and Convert” for DG trainers
  • “The Suez Canal and other Water Related Issues”
  • Expert advice on “Shipping Damaged/Defective/Recalled Lithium Batteries”
  • What the C-Suite Needs to Know About the DG Supply Chain
  • And the always-popular Lithium Battery Panel

This year’s Symposium, like last year’s will be hosted on the DG Exchange. To join these sessions live (or watch them on-demand later), you’ll need to be a DG Exchange member. If you haven’t already, you can set up a free account there in just minutes.

Don’t miss the Dangerous Goods event of the year—register now for the 2021 DG Symposium!

Make sure your shipments are safe and in complete compliance with a full line of solutions from Labelmaster—a full-service provider of goods and services for hazardous materials and Dangerous Goods professionals, shippers, transport operators and EH&S providers.


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