Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 30, 2006

Highway Watch revisited: what next for trucking security?

Filed under: Ground Transport Security — by Christian Beckner on March 30, 2006

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. “We 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 you’re a bad guy would you take advantage of a large corporation, or a guy that’s driving in his office? At the end of the day…we’d be remiss if we didn’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.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 30, 2006 @ 11:55 am

It would be interesting to see how the TSA in DHS and DHS generally liaison with DOT and its modal offices as well as the Research and Special Projects Administration. It is evident that effective liaison activity has not occurred in DHS with other Departments and agencies that are involved with Homeland Security. Just as there is no effective intelligence capability in DHS with respect to terrorism there is no effective exchange or views and ideas or program information with its partners in homeland security.


Comment by Don L. Rondeau

April 3, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

I appreciate your attention to this very serious matter. I agree that we have to harden the target. The unfortunate truth is that quite often I find myself fighting on two fronts. I work to identifying pre operative terrorist activity. The facts are in on this… with the support of my previous team, I believe we have done this. I also often find myself standing against an onslaught of bad ideas from well intentioned albeit ill informed persons who are rightly concerned. My new appointment will allow me to continue to address the operational issues and devote time to policy and educational issues as well. Ultimately I continue to work to keep our great nation safe. My focus has broadened a bit. I continue to be involved in matters of the Highway … I am pleased to report that I am now applying myself to other sectors as well. The serious minded may contact me at info@redteamone.com NOTE http://www.redteamone.com is not affiliated with my work related assignements.

Best Regards

Don L. Rondeau


Comment by Don L. Rondeau

April 3, 2006 @ 9:39 pm


Apologies for the typos in the previous email. I would be remiss if I did not point out that the vast majority of the trucks listed in the previously referenced database are not tractor trailer trucks. They are pick up trucks,fire trucks,box trucks, even SUV’s. When you actually conduct the research, it becomes clear that tractor trailer related VBIED’s make up less than 1% of all attacks recorded since 1968. I am not saying that it is not an issue …because it is, but again, we must deal in facts. I thank you for your concern and ask that you stay engaged. Your efforts are very much appreciated. Remember a tractor trailer takes skill to drive, is inspected, weighed, and very conspicous. Four large SUV’s can carry plenty of punch and do not require special skills to drive in traffic. SUV’s are allowed on all bridges, tunnels and highways (unlike tractor trailers) They are not subject to any inspection and no one would bat an eye If four SUV’s/Mobile homes /Limo’s/ Ice cream trucks parked at a desired terrorist target. The serious minded may contact me at info@redteamone.com

Stay Safe

Don L. Rondeau

Comment by Don L. Rondeau

May 26, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

The Rondeau Report – DHS- Avian Flu Brief


Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » House announces ‘SAFE Truckers Act’

June 16, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

[…] The House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing today to release the SAFE Truckers Act (H.R. 5604), a bipartisan bill intended to improve the security of the trucking system. A press release by bill co-sponsor Jane Harman summarizes the intent of the bill: “The successful movement of goods by truck is vital to the American economy, but it presents a soft underbelly in our homeland security efforts,” Harman said. “We need to focus our limited resources on where we are vulnerable, and that means knowing who is behind the wheel of a big-rig with dangerous materials.” […]

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