Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Tim Taylor


Each year, over 2 billion tons of hazardous materials are shipped in the United States, with over half of that being moved on commercial vehicles. Given their relatively poor or nonexistent defenses and inconspicuousness, commercial vehicles transporting hazardous materials are an easy target for terrorists. Before carriers or security agencies recognize that something is amiss, their contents could be detonated or released. From 2006 to 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recorded 144,643 incidents involving a release of hazardous materials. Although there were no known instances of terrorism being the cause, accidental releases involving trucks carrying hazardous materials are not an uncommon occurrence. At this time, no systems have been developed and operationalized to monitor the movement of vehicles transporting hazardous materials. The purpose of this dissertation is to propose a comprehensive risk management system for monitoring Tier 1 Highway Security Sensitive Materials (HSSMs) which are shipped aboard commercial vehicles in the U.S.

Chapter 2 examines the history and current state of hazardous materials transportation. Since the late 19th century, the federal government often introduced new regulations in response to hazardous materials incidents. However, over the past 15 years few binding policies or legislation have been enacted. This demonstrates that government agencies and the U.S. Congress are not inclined to introduce new laws and rules that could hamper business. In 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and other agencies led efforts to develop a prototype hazardous materials tracking system (PHTS) that mapped the location of hazardous materials shipments and quantified the level of risk associated with each one. The second half of this chapter uses an in-­‐depth gap analysis to identify deficiencies and demonstrate in what areas the prototype system does not comply with government specifications.

Chapter 3 addresses the lack of customized risk equations for Tier 1 HSSMs and develops a new set of risk equations that can be used to dynamically evaluate the level of risk associated with individual hazardous materials shipments. This chapter also discusses the results of a survey that was administered to public and private industry stakeholders. Its purpose was to understand the current state of hazardous materials regulations, the likelihood of hazardous materials release scenarios, what precautionary measures can be used, and what influence social variables may have on the aggregate consequences of a hazardous materials release. The risk equation developed in this paper takes into account the survey responses as well as those risk structures already in place. The overriding goal is to preserve analytical tractability, implement a form that is usable by federal agencies, and provide stakeholders with accurate information about the risk profiles of different vehicles. Due to congressional inaction on hazardous 3 materials transportation issues, securing support from carriers and other industry stakeholders is the most viable solution to bolstering hazardous materials security. Chapter 4 presents the system architecture for The Dynamic Hazardous Materials Risk Assessment Framework (DHMRA), a GIS-­‐based environment in which hazardous materials shipments can be monitored in real time. A case study is used to demonstrate the proposed risk equation; it simulates a hazardous materials shipment traveling from Ashland, Kentucky to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The DHMRA maps risk data, affording security personnel and other stakeholders the opportunity to evaluate how and why risk profiles vary across time and space. DHRMA’s geo-­‐fencing capabilities also trigger automatic warnings. This framework, once fully implemented, can inform more targeted policies to enhance the security of hazardous materials. It will contribute to maintaining secure and efficient supply chains while protecting the communities that live nearest to the most heavily trafficked routes. Continuously monitoring hazardous materials provides a viable way to understand the risks presented by a shipment at a given moment and enables better, more coordinated responses in the event of a release.

Implementation of DHRMA will be challenging because it requires material and procedural changes that could disrupt agency operations or business practices — at least temporarily. Nevertheless, DHRMA stands ready for implementation, and to make the shipment of hazardous materials a more secure, safe, and certain process. Although DHMRA was designed primarily with terrorism in mind, it is also useful for examining the impacts of accidental hazardous materials releases. Future iterations of DHMRA could expand on its capabilities by incorporating modeling data on the release and dispersion of toxic gases, liquids, and other substances.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Available for download on Sunday, October 14, 2018