Tackling truck terrorism

Highway Watch addresses terrorism at TMC

TAMPA, FL – Samuel Garza knows just how bad the terrorist threat is facing the U.S. But he says deterring that threat in trucking is easier than many people think.

“You hear many people talk about how terrorists have to be successful only once, whereas those defending America have to be successful all the time,” said Garza, coordinator of the highway operations center for Alexandria, VA-based Highway Watch, a trucking security organization sponsored by the American Trucking Assn. and funded in part by the federal government.

“What people don’t know is that terrorists don’t take chances. If there is even a hint of trouble with a proposed operation, they pack up and move on,” he explained here at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting. “We have to be successful with just one step – observing suspicious behavior and reporting it . But they need to be successful with all four of their steps – targeting, casing, rehearsal, and attack. By being alert, we can more easily disrupt what they may try to do.”

Highway Watch is a nationwide program focused on training truck drivers and other transportation personnel to identify suspicious behavior, assess the potential threat, and then funnel that information to law enforcement agencies. At two training sessions here at TMC, Garza explained that simply by being observant the trucking industry provides valuable intelligence to law enforcement.

“We had a case in Portland, OR back in 2002 where a security director for a trucking company observed a man in a car videotaping the entry and exit of trucks from the carrier’s yard,” he said. “When the director approached the man to ask what he was doing, the man drove off at a high rate of speed – but down a dead end road.”

Garza said the director waited patiently for the man to turn around and come back up the road, whereupon he wrote down the license plate number and forwarded that information to police. He claimed that one tip led to the cracking of a terrorist cell forming on the West Coast and helped police uncover a cache of weapons and bombs.

“That’s why even the smallest amount of information is invaluable to intelligence analysts,” Garza told Fleet Owner. “Your tidbit might break a case. Because it will join with other bits and pieces of information to gradually form a complete mosaic-- a fuller picture that can uncover terrorist activity.”

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