Truckers Unite to Combat Terrorism
Last September, our nation and the trucking industry were shaken by the realization of our vulnerability to terrorist attacks. While the trucking industry has fought to combat cargo theft and address other security concerns for many years, never before have we considered the magnitude of tragedy that can occur when cargo and equipment fall into the wrong hands. This awareness has caused many carriers to reevaluate the adequacy of existing security measures.
Recipe for Disaster
With relaxed penalties and insufficient resources, cargo theft has become increasingly appealing to criminals. This is especially a concern when transporting hazardous materials.
Each year there are at least 300 million hazmat shipments totaling nearly 3.2 billion tons in this country alone. An estimated 800,000 hazmat shipments move throughout the United States each day, 94 percent of them via truck. There has been great concern over the fact that suspected terrorists were able to obtain commercial driver's licenses with a hazmat endorsement.
As the U.S. war on terror rages on, trucking companies are looking for solutions to many questions at hand. What can be done to protect our foodstuff from harmful tampering while in transit? What measures can we take to assure that hazardous material is not used as a weapon of destruction? What actions can we take to alleviate the impacts of a transportation system disruption resulting from a terrorist act?
Last October, several members of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) testified before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee calling for help in combating future terrorist threats in wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. On behalf of the industry, we suggested several ways Congress could reduce threats to security:
- Take steps to lessen the impact of a terrorist attack on the highway system by building redundancy into the transportation system to ensure the continued flow of commerce.
- Prioritize federal investments to make sure highways that are most critical to our military and our economy are adequately funded.
- Authorize motor carrier access to national crime information databases for criminal background checks on current or prospective employees.
- Increase efficiency of security measures at U.S. borders.
- Appoint more federal personnel dedicated to commercial driver's license program evaluation.
- Reject legislation that might curtail use of Social Security numbers as personal identifiers on driver's licenses.
Following the pleas of our industry, the government has taken important steps to curtail security threats.
- In October, the U.S. Patriot Act was passed to strengthen America by providing appropriate tools to intercept and obstruct terrorism.
- The Department of Transportation will soon use the FBI's fingerprint database to identify possible security risks among people seeking licenses to haul hazardous materials.
- The U.S. Senate has passed legislation to make $3.3 billion in loans available for ports to upgrade security and meet a new law that requires ports to better monitor the freight and crew members of ships.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), one of the newest agencies created by Congress, was formed to improve truck and bus safety on the nation's highways.
Motor carriers are taking their own preventive actions as well, testing new security systems designed to prevent unauthorized movement of vulnerable freight. If an invalid ID code is entered, for example, even when a truck is idling, the engine stalls when the park brake is released. Additionally, many fleets continue to operate on a heightened state of alert in each employee's area of responsibility.
The trucking industry has various tools at its disposal to ensure that trucks and cargo do not fall into the wrong hands and are not used in a terrorist act. The industry has demonstrated its readiness and willingness to continue efforts to do more, and Congress has taken steps to assist us in protecting our people, equipment and cargo.