How Often are Hazardous Materials on our Highways?

RANDOLPH COUNTY, AR -- Every day of the week there are hazardous and sometimes dangerous materials transported through Region 8.

"Very possibly you could be driving down the highway or even right here in Jonesboro right beside and 18 wheeler and not even know what is inside it," said Marty Hamrick of the Jonesboro Fire Department.

For most of us, these everyday encounters don't really pose a danger unless an accident happens.

"It can be very very dangerous.  If we're looking at having a major derailment right here in the middle of town we could have to evacuate the whole town," said Hamrick.

Almost anything could be considered a "hazardous material".

"Hazardous materials are everything from household goods to fertilizers to co-ops to gas being taken to gas stations," said Arkansas Highway Police Inspector Jay Thompson.

"If you're stopped at a train crossing take a look at the boxcars.  95% of the boxcars on the train are going to contain some type of hazardous materials," said Hamrick.

There are nine classes for hazardous materials, but there is a way to tell what is on each truck or railcar.

"They do have a placard system on the outside of those containers that allow us as emergency responders to be able to tell what may be inside there in case of an emergency," said Hamrick.

There are also guidelines about what can and cannot be hauled together.

"Depending on the quantity and how it's packaged the rules may allow several different hazardous materials to be transported in the same container as long as they're not allowed to come in contact with each other," said Thompson.