Birmingham, AL— According to trucking experts, the potential for terrorists to use trucks as weapons is becoming a much more likely scenario in the U.S.— especially as the presidential election on November 2 draws closer.
"The use of (truck bombs) continues to be one of the most widely used weapons by terrorists worldwide," said Michael Coyle, president & CEO of Transportation Safety Technologies (TST) here at McLeod Software's 14th annual User Conference.
"Consider that in relation to the attacks launched March 11 in Spain that changed the course of that nation's general election. The terrorists feel that was a great victory and you can see the implications for the U.S. here," he said.
Coyle stressed that the level of awareness needs to be raised in trucking as thefts of trucks, trailers, and cargoes such as fertilizer that can be turned into weapons fairly easily.
"Every truck rental agency is on the alert for suspicious persons trying to rent trucks for undetermined purposes with cash," he explained. "There are over 542,363 trucking companies in the U.S. and 85% of them have five or fewer trucks -- meaning they can't afford security systems for their vehicles. So the situation is more ripe for theft."
Coyle added that cargo theft— which costs an estimated $25 billion a year in the U.S.— is part of the problem as it is not prosecuted as thoroughly as other crimes, making it more attractive to criminal elements.
"Many state district attorneys won't prosecute a cargo theft where the load is under $100,000 in value -- they don't have the time or resources to spend on that," he said. "That leaves an avenue open for theft to flourish."
On top of that, the spate of lawmaking in the wake of September 11 has confused many in the trucking industry as to what they need to do to make themselves more secure, added Charles 'Shorty' Whittington, president of agricultural and hazmat hauler, Grammer Industries.
"No one wants a truck to be used as a weapon, but all the new rules and regulations have overwhelmed the industry to a large degree," he said. "Congress makes the general law but leaves it to the federal agencies to fill in the specifics. That's why we as an industry have to make sure the right people in these agencies are getting credible information to make good security rules that will do what they are supposed to do."