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Big Rigs Carrying Hazardous Materials Pose Big Risks

Federal guidelines regulate the transit of hazardous or potentially hazardous materials along state highways.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A potential uranium spill that prompted authorities to close part of Interstate 95 in Johnston County last Thursday was one of nearly 400 incidents involving hazardous materials this year.

State troopers said the truck's driver took the on-ramp too fast from I-95 to Interstate 40 when the vehicle flipped with more than 6,000 tons of low-grade powdered uranium inside.

Investigators said steel casing prevented any of the uranium to leak.

Each day, tractor-trailer trucks travel along state highways. Often times, the products they haul are flammable, corrosive, explosive or dangerous if they spill.

That's why federal regulations contain detailed packaging requirements. Loads are required to display hazardous material placards to give emergency responders information about a load's contents.

The federal government sets the safety guidelines for hazardous-material transport, but it is typically up to states to enforce the laws.

With limited resources, investigators admit that many trucks do not get a closer look until there is a wreck of a major safety problem.

State troopers, however, say they are confident that most loads are safely packed.

So far this year, there have been more than 15,000 hazmat incidents in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, North Carolina had 385, which ranks 11th most in the country.

Highway incidents make up 95 percent of that total. Rail and air incidents make up the other five percent.


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