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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Hazardous Materials Transportation in South Carolina

Melanie Baker

Advisor:  Dr. Susan L. Cutter



Hazardous materials accidents have tremendous potential to harm people and the environment depending upon the location of the accident and the type of cargo, among other factors. Unfortunately, the lack of reliable data on the type and quantity of hazardous materials transported in the United States makes it difficult for emergency officials to develop mitigation plans. Accordingly, this research has two purposes: first, to identify patterns in hazardous materials transportation in South Carolina, and second, to assess the vulnerability of those areas that would be most adversely affected were an accident to occur. This research was accomplished through a statewide survey of commercial  interstate highway truck traffic and the construction of a model to predict likely accident areas and who would be most affected in those locations.

The three primary research questions are:

1.     Is there any geographic variability in the distribution of hazardous materials transportation based on time of day, day of week and season?

2.     Are the materials being transported remaining within South Carolina (intrastate shipments) or are they passing through the state (interstate shipments)?

3.     What routes within South Carolina are most vulnerable to hazmat spills and what populations along those routes are most at risk?

The examination revealed that geographic variability did exist. Interstate 85 in the Upstate had a higher frequency of both regular and hazmat vehicles. The Upstate also varied from the Low Country with a hazmat peak mid-week as opposed to Monday and Tuesday for the latter. The primary chemicals transported varied little across regions. The majority of hazmat travel was intrastate except for traffic on Interstate 85 where the highway served to connect businesses in Georgia and North Carolina. Populations living near highways in Jasper, Charleston, Richland, Greenville, and Spartanburg Counties appear the most vulnerable to a hazmat accident. This research is useful in that it identifies the type and quantity of hazardous materials, the routes that are at risk, the population at risk, and the opportunity to better allocate resources to those areas in need.