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The turning of four jetliners into air borne weapons of terror on September 11, 2001, abruptly awoke all Americans to the real-life nightmare that terrorists could successfully strike not only targets far overseas, but right here. At home. Yet it was five and a half years earlier on another infamous day, April 19, 1995, that the detonation in Oklahoma City of a hand-made bomb first demonstrated how

The turning of four jetliners into air borne weapons of terror on September 11, 2001, abruptly awoke all Americans to the real-life nightmare that terrorists could successfully strike not only targets far overseas, but right here. At home.

Yet it was five and a half years earlier on another infamous day, April 19, 1995, that the detonation in Oklahoma City of a hand-made bomb first demonstrated how simply but lethally terrorists can attack anywhere. And with a vehicle as easy to get a hold of as a truck.

Let's be blunt. Terror attacks can be accomplished by one person wearing an explosive vest, as has been shown over and over again in Israel. Then there are the car bombs. But the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the bang. Hence, the savage thinking behind the 9/11 attacks.

But now that the nation's air transportation system has been “hardened” at least to some degree against terrorists, other means are bound to be considered. Passenger trains have become targets, as was borne out tragically in Spain. In the U.S., it's trucks that can deliver the goods. They can be taken very close to civilian targets without arousing any concern.

The question now — nearly three years after the mind-numbing assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — is what must be done to make trucking as secure as reasonably possible against the threat of terrorism?

Not surprisingly, the first answers are coming out of the natural concern to better protect trucks transporting hazardous materials. But as Timothy McVeigh sadly demonstrated, even an ordinary straight truck can become a massively destructive weapon. That means the steps typically taken to secure hazmat trucks should be taken for all trucking equipment.

Drew Robertson, director of the Freight Transportation Security Consortium (FTSC), whose membership consists of 50 top firms in asset tracking, vehicle monitoring, emergency response, mobile resource management, equipment finance and insurance, says there are four key steps any fleet can take to boost security against terrorist actions:

  1. Assess the threat
  2. Prevent the attack
  3. Interdict during the attack
  4. Remediate after the attack

Most fleets today are probably at Step 1 with some at Step 2 and very few yet equipped to handle Step 3. And fewer still have probably even considered Step 4.


  1. Start at the beginning by first determining how great your fleet's actual exposure to terrorism is and then weigh what you can commit to addressing that threat given other business priorities.

    Fleets that transport hazardous materials can consider themselves at high risk. But any truck fleet operating in or near a major city or military base; power plant, dam or bridge; or any site of political, historical, or cultural significance should also be wary of becoming a target.

    “A fleet needs to think in terms of its own operation,” says FTSC's Robertson. “Fleet owners do not have the luxury of trying everything out. The expectation of some is that the government will lay things out. The hope is the government will do the right thing; the trepidation is they will not.”

    Since the government is still figuring out what it may want carriers to do, there's all the more reason to address security gaps yourself, and right now.

    Bob Belshaw, COO of Manassas, VA-based Insight, which provides planning software and consulting services for supply-chain management, recommends following the lead of some of the nation's top firms.

    “Insight's clients include Fortune 50 companies such as Exxon/Mobil, P&G, Pfizer and others,” says Belshaw. “The events of 9/11 made it clear such firms are vulnerable not only to attacks on their own assets, but also to attacks on their suppliers, customers, transportation providers and communication lines.

    “The absence of a supply chain disruption contingency plan to address vulnerabilities was felt at all levels in the private [manufacturing and service] firms and public agencies [such as ports and security services],” he continues. “Businesses must assess the vulnerability of their critical components, raw materials, and the services that are essential to their operations, and then plan for interruption.”

    Belshaw says when estimating losses caused by a disruption in the supply chain, the costs and benefits of “alternative restorative action” must be weighed.

    “Companies must address potential disruption through a well-coordinated plan,” he advises. “When top management is committed to proper preparation, proactive planning will guard the bottom line and customer satisfaction.”

    That's an excellent point because it is reasonable to assume that top-dollar shippers will eventually require carriers to furnish proof they have gone through the time and trouble to implement a terrorism security plan to protect their link in the supply chain.

  2. Prevention starts with common sense.

    Start by knowing your employees and their backgrounds — better than ever before. “The best line of defense is to prevent it from happening,” asserts Insight's Belshaw. “Better personnel background checks; better training of personnel; better government controls all can assist in preventing something from happening.”

    Most fleets already screen driver candidates to one degree or another. But keep in mind these checks are only as reliable as the information supplied, which usually comes from the applicants themselves.

    On the other hand, Section 1012 of the Patriot Act mandates criminal background checks of drivers seeking hazardous-materials endorsements to their CDLs. Hazmat drivers will have to be fingerprinted by the their CDL-issuing state's DMV or other authority starting January 31, 2005. Fingerprints will be run through an FBI database as an extra criminal check with results forwarded to the U.S. DOT.

    The government is not planning fingerprint checks for all CDL holders. Of course, the reality is that it does not take a CDL to steal or hijack a truck. So prevention must extend beyond the professional driver to encompass securing the vehicle, especially when it's away from secured terminals or shipper facilities.

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends hazmat carriers take certain procedures when the National Threat Level is raised to “Orange.”

    But it would seem most of these actions would require advance planning to implement them in time.

    And it could be wise for all carriers to consider at least implementing this baker's dozen of hazmat preventive measures suggested by FMCSA:

    • Use an engine kill switch

    • Use tractor and trailer brake locking devices

    • If trailer is dropped, use a fifth wheel lock whenever possible

    • Perform quick walk-around to check vehicle for foreign objects after all stops

    • Control who enters and leaves your facility, if possible. Require visitors to show photo ID and have someone accompany visitors at all times

    • Reduce your internal tolerance for “security anomalies,” such as overdue or missing vehicles, perimeter or physical plant intrusions, unverified visitors, evidence of tampering and the like

    • Use tamper-resistant or tamper-evident seals and locks on cargo

    • Identify preferred and alternated routing, including acceptable deviations. Make sure routing complies with local routing restrictions

    • If possible, alternate routes to frequent destinations

    • Minimize exposure in downtown or heavily populated areas and expedite the shipment to the final destination

    • Minimize stops en route; if you must stop, select locations with adequate lighting on well-traveled roads and avoid high-crime or dangerous areas

    • Train drivers how to avoid hijackings or theft of property — keep vehicles locked when parked and avoid conversation about route, cargo, and destinations on open channels or with strangers

    • Consider using advanced technology to track or protect your cargo en route (i.e., satellite tracking systems, anti-theft systems for trailers and tractors and surveillance systems). GPS tracking systems should relay updates more frequently.

  3. Interdiction occurs where the rubber is meeting the road (see “Security In Motion” sidebar). Granted, that's not the ideal spot to be in. But because terrorism by its very nature is wildly unpredictable, interdiction cannot be left out of any security approach.

    “Most of the attention to thwarting terrorism has been focused on interdiction,” says FTSC's Robertson. This means having responses in place to implement in the event of a terrorist strike.”

    The simplest way to aid interdiction is to ensure drivers have a way to communicate when in trouble. This could be a cab-mounted panic alarm of some sort or a cellphone carried on their person along with emergency “24/7” numbers they should dial at the first sign of a threat.

    Interdiction can also be set in motion by a vehicle tracking and monitoring system set up to send an electronic alert when a truck deviates from a regular or planned route.

    Once the deed is done, there are both low- and high-tech ways to interdict. Robertson points out that a bill introduced in the California legislature would give the California Highway Patrol the authority to shut down a wayward or compromised vehicle, either by tripping an onboard shutdown system or, get this, by “bumping” it off the road with another vehicle.

    Robertson says that for about $1,000 a truck, a “black box” anti-hijacking system can be installed onboard that the driver can engage to shut down the vehicle. To restart it, a PIN must be entered or a smart card swiped or a fingerprint read.

    The next step up the tech ladder would be a remote shutdown system that would work in parallel with a vehicle tracking system.

    The good news about remote shutdown is that installing it will probably only be an incremental cost for fleets that already have onboard tracking. The bad news, points out Robertson, is “the whole issue of who will take responsibility to shut down the truck. Will that be the fleet, the central monitoring center, or the government? And if it's the government, at which level?”


    According to Norm Ellis, Qualcomm's vp of business operations, homeland security, the federal government's ongoing field test of existing technology to improve hazmat safety and security will “quantify the costs and benefits of various approaches,” all of which could be implemented today. He notes a final rulemaking on hazmat security could come down “as early as this summer, but surely by this fall.”

    Ellis says the “backbone of the system” under review consists of “onboard satellite and terrestrial-based communications coupled with enhanced digital phones” for drivers.

    He reports these are some of the initial findings of the FMCSA testing, which involves 100 trucks operated by nine fleets in four states:

    • Driver ID/verification can be achieved with a biometric smart card to prevent unauthorized vehicle access

    • Cargo locking can be done with electronic seals or “from the inside” with remote electronic locking

    • Cargo tracking can be implemented with position location tracking and can include geo-fencing features

    • Vehicle can be disabled by derating the engine via an onboard computer, with the action controlled by the driver locally or by others remotely.

    Ellis says most fleets will likely benefit from implementing a “tiered” solution. That means “viewing the technology in different cost tiers to gain a range of protection” rather than thinking security technology must be implemented as an all-or-nothing proposition.

  4. In the event of a terrorist attack that involves a truck, the fleet — and the trucking industry, too — should be prepared to ensure remediation.

    “If there is an incident,” says FTSC's Robertson, “it has to be cleaned up.” As awful as it is to contemplate such an event, his point is to not compound it by letting it linger — as terrorists would want.

    “One thing that could come out of a trucking-related attack,” Robertson says, “is a severe impact on consumer confidence. If a truck bomb goes off and the mess remains for some time afterwards, the memory of that failure [of the transportation industry] will stay around for a long time.”

The best way to prevent that, of course, is for trucking to do its level best to prevent the kind of security breaches that terrorists are known all too well to exploit.

Senior editor Sean Kilcarr provided additional research for this article.

Case Study: TNT Logistics

“There's a lot of overlap between terrorism and cargo theft,” says Mark Johnson, vp-quality & development for TNT Logistics North America. “We didn't have to reinvent our security plan in order to address the threat of terrorism.

“Post 9/11, as a global company we did put specific policies and procedures in place in our transportation network to deal with terrorism. That's not to say we didn't have a plan before 9/11, but that [incident] forced us to re-examine our policies.”

TNT Logistics is showing itself willing to go the extra mile to make its operations more secure. For example, it recently applied for the government's CT-PAT program to help secure cross-border freight.

“As we went through the first phase of this certification process,” says Johnson, “we found it not too difficult to complete the initial application and supply a list of drivers. Now we are entering the second level, where we get audited by U.S. Customs. There was no hesitation on anyone's part within TNT to do this — getting a security focus is a must. And CT-PAT is important to us because it covers Canada-U.S. traffic, which represents 95% of our North American freight.”

Johnson says TNT Logistics must view security against terrorism through the prism of the three elements underpinning its ground freight network: company drivers and equipment; owner-operators operating under contract within its network; and outside carriers to which freight is outsourced. “There's no such thing as a ‘typical’ transportation network for us. Freight may pass through one of those elements, or two or all three.”

Therefore TNT Logistics requires its owner-operators to get the same security (as well as safety) training as its company drivers. “They are held to the same policies and procedures as company drivers.”

As for carriers handling outsourced freight, Johnson says they must of course be responsible for their own security. “We develop close working relationships with them and also spell out our security requirements,” he states. “They must have a security plan and be CT-PAT compliant. We've had very little push-back from carriers in terms of our requirements; they are more than willing to work with us.”

Johnson offers these security-planning tips:

  • Develop specific local security plans and require awareness and compliance to them. “But remember even a good plan will have exposure. So you have to constantly work to find the gaps — always revisit the plan and recognize anything can be improved.”

  • Have both standardized security practices and more flexible guidelines to allow for local conditions. “For example, some warehouses can't afford standard security measures because of physical configuration. So the standard plan must be modified. Financial constraints must be considered, too. Security guards, fencing, and electronic surveillance such as camera systems are all expensive. You have to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine what is most feasible.”

  • Keep always in mind that security is more than a plan. Like safety, it must become part of the culture. “You need to constantly revisit plans and stay awake to security needs as they change.”

It would seem the key to TNT Logistics' security stance is a company-wide commitment to securing its global operations on the local level. And that is what everyone in trucking, no matter their size or scope, must now do.

NEXT MONTH — LOCKDOWN PART 2: Security & Borders

Security in motion

At first telling, it sound like a slick plot device plucked from a Hollywood thriller. But it turns out the future of trucking security in the U.S. — against terrorists or any criminal element for that matter — may well be a dynamic high-tech system already at work in South America to thwart cargo theft.

Introduced in November '03 by Volvo in Brazil, where truck hijacking is rampant, the setup is built around the OEM's Volvo Link wireless vehicle tracking and communications system.

According to Shawn Meredith, lead electronics engineer, Volvo Trucks North America, the system stands out for doing far more than monitoring trucks in motion.

“In Brazil, Volvo Finance and a risk-management [private security] company are involved,” relates Meredith. “They set up a service that links back to the Volvo Link equipment we install on the vehicles.” He notes the system can be installed on any make of truck.

“At the start of a trip,” says Meredith, “the system will note that the trailer door is shut, the tractor and trailer are linked together, and that the driver is in the vehicle with the doors closed. The system then sends a ‘locked’ signal to both the fleet's dispatch center and the risk-management firm. The driver is now in ‘secure mode,’ much like when you arm a burglar alarm at a house.

“Along the pre-planned route the truck travels are predetermined ‘safe zones’ where the driver can stop and get out of the truck to refuel, eat or rest. The system transmits the time and location when the cleared stop occurs.”

But if a door is opened in a “non-cleared area,” an alert message is sent. Since hijackers may try to get around that by pulling the driver out the window, there is a panic button inside the cab the driver can hit to send out the alert.

Any panic message is sent to both fleet dispatch and the risk-management firm. That's when it gets interesting: “Fleet dispatch can only monitor the situation,” says Meredith. “But the risk-management firm dispatches its own security force to the area while continuing to monitor the vehicle.”

Wait, there's more. Even as the security detail is rushing to the scene of the crime, high tech takes a hand. “After the panic button is pushed, the vehicle goes into ‘secure mode.’ The risk-management firm can send this command as well.”

Once secure mode is engaged, the vehicle is gradually stopped in its tracks via remote shutdown of the electronic engine. “If it's a Volvo,” says Meredith, “a ‘secure mode’ warning will flash on the dashboard. If it's another make of truck, the warning will show up on the Volvo ‘pod’ installed in the cab as part of the Volvo Link addition.

“The message tells the driver the vehicle is shutting down,” he continues. “Road speed is quickly ramped down and then the engine shuts off. The system allows two more opportunities to restart the engine and move a short distance at sharply reduced speed — for moving off railroad tracks or getting out of traffic — before shutting down again.”

After the second startup and shutdown cycle, the vehicle is shut down for good. It can only be operated again by towing it to a Volvo dealership to have the system reset or having a dealer use a hand-held device at the scene to reactivate it. No one else can reset the system, not even the risk-management company.

According to Meredith, the system is priced at about $1,000 “for the technology alone” (installation labor extra) with a monthly fee of up to about $35 per truck.


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