Trucking Industry Weary Of Terrorism Alerts

Given frequency of security breaches trucking recently has had to deal with, many have become skeptical of how big of a threat terrorism is. Riding in the wake of recent warnings from the Attorney General and the FBI of credible intelligence about attacks in the months ahead, the theft and subsequent recovery of two propane trucks last week in Texas underscored the need for increased public awareness

Given frequency of security breaches trucking recently has had to deal with, many have become skeptical of how big of a threat terrorism is.

Riding in the wake of recent warnings from the Attorney General and the FBI of credible intelligence about attacks in the months ahead, the theft and subsequent recovery of two propane trucks last week in Texas underscored the need for increased public awareness to prevent security breaches.

Bill Webb, president of the Texas Motor Transportation Assn. (TMTA), told Fleet Owner that the recent scare over the two missing tankers drew a modest response from the trucking industry.

“I don’t think there was anything in response to that— it [the incident] wasn’t terrorist related,” Webb said, pointing out that since 9/11 many TMTA-affiliated companies have already taken measures to review security loopholes and implement solutions. However, in such a vast industry, many acknowledge that it would be impossible to prevent all security breaches.

“The reality is if there’s someone that’s determined to take something, they’re going to take it,” Webb said.

Given the frequency of thefts within the transportation industry driven by both petty crimes and hijackings, it seems that industry is becoming weary of incidents that trigger terrorism alerts.

“We know the value of propane and most of us here [at TMTA] thought that someone wanted to sell off the propane to the black market. We have food loads that come up missing all the time and no one thought it’d be terrorism-related— it’s more likely that someone wants to sell off stolen produce in Mexico than poison the public,” Webb said. However, the industry is not blind to the potential threats.

“Obviously we are in the day and age where terrorism is a threat. Whether it’s [an incident] terrorism or black market is the same: there’s a load missing and someone has to find it,” Webb said.

Highway Watch, a $19-million voluntary training program funded by the Transportation Security Administration, has not seen spikes in enrollment in the wake of terrorism scares, such as the propane tanker incident, industry analysts say.

“Participation remains constant regardless of what is happening,” John Willard, American Trucking Associations (ATA) director of image programs, told Fleet Owner.

Webb concurs. “The only spike we saw is when the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration) went around and audited individual companies, mostly Hazmat, and went over what needed to be done to beef up security,” Webb said. “Having a federal agency in your office gets your attention.”

Several thousand truck drivers nationally are trained Highway Watch participants, Willard said. ATA aims to train between 300,000 to 400,000 participants— including bus drivers, state Department of Transportation workers, mass transit workers, and construction workers by March 2005. Truck drivers in Arkansas were the first to receive the anti-terrorism training in April 2002.

A silver lining that came out of the concern over terrorism, however, is that transportation industry thefts have received much more credibility with law enforcement officials.

“Before we hadn’t got much of a reaction from the feds. The first question they’d ask us was ‘are you sure its not a disgruntled driver?’ But after 9/11, the increased security works to everyone’s advantage,” Webb said.

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