Fleet Owner magazine has an article today that interviews the departing director of the American Trucking Association’s Highway Watch program, cites the program’s accomplishments, and highlights some of the challenges that it faces:
To date, Highway Watch has trained nearly 250,000 transportation professionals to identify and report emergencies and suspicious activities. [Don] Rondeau noted that although many large carriers have been trained and developed security protocols, he believes vulnerabilities remain in many medium and small trucking companies.
“I think that it will be difficult but we must do it,” Rondeau said. â€œWe have to recognize that the owner-operator and the mid-sized trucking companies make up the bulk of the industry. They make up a significant portion of the risk associated with any potential event. If youâ€™re a bad guy would you take advantage of a large corporation, or a guy thatâ€™s driving in his office? At the end of the dayâ€¦weâ€™d be remiss if we didnâ€™t make sure that all members that are elements of the transportation sector could harden their security.”
I agree that these are real risks. The security of an open system like trucking is in a sense only as good as its weakest link. That’s why I worry that we haven’t done enough to secure the trucking sector, especially hazmat trucks, and the 770,000 shipments of hazardous materials that are moved on trucks each day. As I noted in a post in December 2005, the only two significant things that DHS has really done on trucking security are fund Highway Watch and conduct background checks on hazmat drivers. And while useful, that is not enough.
Does the trucking sector need the same degree of security as the aviation system? Absolutely not, since the threats and consequences are different, and the system is inherently difficult to protect. But we know that terrorists have used trucks dozens of times to carry out attacks. MIPT’s terrorism database includes 432 incident documents that include the word “truck.” And we know that there are scenarios where a truck can be used to cause substantial damage, both from painful experience and from hypothetical scenarios such as an intentional BLEVE. (See this video of an accidental LPG tanker truck BLEVE).
The threats and needs for trucking security are without a doubt greater than the level of funding that DHS has provided to address them. Instead, the DHS FY 2007 budget request shows little interest in trucking security; funding for Highway Watch (via the trucking industry security grant program) is nowhere to be found, and the TSA wants to eliminate funding for a hazardous materials truck tracking pilot project which is funded at $4 million this year. And there are no new initiatives to supercede these programs, as far as I can tell.
More thought needs to be given to a strategic, layered approach to trucking security – one that has a role for Highway Watch, but doesn’t end there, and includes activities such as better training and enhanced information-sharing for state Highway Patrols, incentives for the voluntary inclusion of security tools in truck telematic systems, a more direct role for security investment in the Intelligent Transportation Systems funding stream, and integration with air and maritime security activities.