Planes, Trains and More: Traveling Safely with Your Tools

Planes, Trains and More: Traveling Safely with Your Tools

Not all contractors like to or want to travel outside their traditional service areas unless they can do so in their work vehicles. But occasionally, circumstances may require taking some of your hand and power tools along with you on a plane, train or on a long bus trip. Maybe you received a lucrative job offer, are planning a working vacation at a relative’s home or picked up a few items you’ve been looking for at a construction expo. Traveling long distance with tools simply means following the rules, taking common sense precautions and enjoying the trip.

Air Travel

The airline industry, domestic and international, is governed by strict regulations concerning what can be carried onto planes, although each airline also has its own set of rules about transporting tools. Take the time to research the rules of the airline you choose to fly on before booking the flight.

For example, several types of tools that can be stored in your checked baggage are prohibited from being packed in your carry-on luggage. One group of tools that are banned from carryon luggage includes sharp objects. The following (and possibly more) are included.

• Saws (including cordless portable saws) and blades
• Drills (Including cordless portable power drills)
• Wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers and pliers
• Box cutters and utility knives
• Flammable liquids (including WD-40 and other work-related products)

Many airlines do allow properly packaged lithium metal and ion batteries in your carry-on luggage because they don’t want them stored in the belly of the plane. All baggage, including that which you check, will be searched, so make sure your tools are properly packed and secured in a locked tool box or rolling tote.

One thing to keep an eye on is the weight of your checked baggage. Most airlines have a weight limit of 50 to 75 lbs. on checked items. The penalty for going over the limit can get expensive. If you know the weight of your tools will exceed the weight limit, consider shipping some of them by ground, especially if you have a professional account that offers discounts.

Remember to arrive early at the airport. The screening process for toolboxes tends to take longer than regular check-ins. Stay with your tools so you can make sure the box is properly locked afterward.

Traveling by Train

Like airline regulations, there are rules forbidding packing certain hand tools in your carry-on luggage.

• Batteries containing acid that can spill or leak
• Machinery and parts
• Power tools

Properly packed hand tools are allowed only as checked luggage. Overweight tools and small, large or bulky items can go with you, but they must be sent as either heavy or commercial shipments.

Small Package Shipments

• Weight limit for each packaged item is 50 lbs.
• Size limit for each package is 3 ft. by 3 ft. by 3 ft.
• Weight limit for each total shipment is 500 lbs.

Heavy and Commercial Shipments

Many major stations around the country handle pallets and large or overweight packages. Except for palletized items, the same weight and size limits apply as with small package shipments. The weight limit for each pallet is 500 lbs.

Traveling by Bus

While regulations covering ground travel are much the same when it comes to carry-on baggage, you are allowed to check a second piece of luggage or baggage that will be stowed under the bus as long as both the carry-on luggage and checked baggage don’t weigh more than 50 lbs. each. If the hand and power tools you need are overweight, it’s possible to have the items shipped to your destination beforehand so they’ll be there when you arrive.

Finally, no matter how you plan to travel, remember to photograph and document everything in the toolbox in case of theft or damage. If your insurance doesn’t cover your tools, research what type of policy is best for your needs.

Have you ever traveled with your tools? Do you have any additional traveling tips?