The word “convoy” conjures up images of renegade truckers banding together to keep Smokey from enforcing the 55 mph speed limit. But now that the United States is at war against terrorism, secured convoys could help the trucking industry deal with the highest levels of threat.
In the post-Sept. 11 context, closed convoys of 20 or so commercial trucks would look more like military operations than gangs of outlaws. And that’s precisely the role and image some trucking industry leaders are seeking.
More than 3 million people drive trucks in the United States – more than the number of people serving in the U.S. armed forces, notes American Trucking Associations President William Canary. It just makes sense, he says, to make those people the eyes and ears of the anti-terrorism effort, especially “when you consider that those driving trucks are patriotic, observant by the nature of what they do and are still distressed by what happened on Sept. 11.”
Association leaders quip that ATA now stands for “America’s Trucking Army.” But while ATA is leading the charge, it has reached out to all segments of the trucking industry to define the key concerns and draft a plan that will ensure homeland security and keep trucks moving as efficiently as possible. Among the coalition members are Canadian and Mexican trucking associations, the National Tank Truck Carriers, the Teamsters, the Truckload Carriers Association and others.
In a speech at the TCA annual meeting last month, Canary said it should be one of the industry’s highest priorities to protect homeland security. “We can each take a solemn oath to do everything in our power to ensure that no truck is ever used as a weapon of mass destruction,” he said.
To achieve this security, ATA has spearheaded an industrywide plan of action that government and industry can turn to immediately to respond to specific threat levels. Now in draft form, the plan could be released in a matter of weeks. The plan, currently called the Anti-Terrorism Action Plan (ATAP), would suggest some fairly drastic protective measures at higher threat levels. But trucking industry representatives are confident that the plan also will keep the economy – and trucks – rolling. And a carefully crafted and implemented anti-terrorism plan just might take a huge bite out of cargo theft problem.
Just a couple of weeks after the Sept. 11 tragedy, the public learned that a number of people had been arrested for fraudulently obtaining commercial driver’s licenses with hazardous materials endorsements. So Congress and the Bush administration focused their initial trucking-related efforts on hazmat. Now that everyone has a bit more distance from the events of September, however, it’s clear to many that any commercial truck could be a vehicle for a weapon of mass destruction.
That’s not just idle speculation. In testimony last month before a Senate committee, Robert Walpole, a national intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, said that the intelligence community considers the United States more vulnerable to a weapon of mass destruction delivered by a truck, ship or airplane than by a missile.
ATA’s own security and terrorism advisor agrees. A strategically placed truck bomb in many ways can replicate a nuclear weapon, and multiple truck bombs certainly could, says Jeffrey Beatty, president of Total Security Services International, Alexandria, Va. ATA retained Beatty several months ago to help draft an industry consensus security plan.
Beatty estimates that a single truck bomb attack easily could amount to $700 million in death, injuries and property destruction. If, like Sept. 11, terrorists carried out two or three such incidents simultaneously, the cost to the industry could be $1.5 billion to $2 billion in a single day.
Next to the loss of life, however, perhaps the greatest concern of all is the government’s likely reaction in the absence of a formal plan. “Initially, there would be a response similar to what happened in the aviation industry [on Sept. 11],” Beatty says. “They would put things down for a while. That would have severe repercussions,” he says.
“The specter of truck transportation being dramatically curtailed as a consequence of a truck-related attack could have a huge impact on fleet operations and the economy,” says Gary Petty, president of the National Private Truck Council. In a worse-case scenario, Petty envisions prohibition of trucks around tunnels, bridges, ports and any area within 300 yards of a government installation. “You could certainly see a virtual lockdown on truck transportation. The whole fear of the trucking industry is that if we don’t have some kind of preemptive plan, that could happen,” Petty says.
Presenting an industry-consensus plan to the government is essential, Canary says. “What we’re trying to do is work with government. If we do nothing, then we can only assume that others will make decisions for us.”
Training the troops
At the foundation of ATAP is the Highway Watch program, an initiative supported by ATA and operating in four states: Colorado, Florida, Kansas and Oregon. The effort, funded through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, enlists truck drivers to report unsafe drivers, drunken driving, road rage, poor road or weather conditions and so on.
Canary envisions the expansion of Highway Watch nationwide and, simultaneously, the incorporation of a security awareness element. What makes Highway Watch an appropriate vehicle, he says, is the fact that it is organized at the state level. That’s the only way the industry can train 3 million drivers plus, potentially, another 6 million trucking industry employees working in other jobs. By establishing partnerships with the states, “we would have a national program that we could put into place in a very short period of time,” Canary says.
The key elements of training would be how to detect and track suspicious behavior. Using the acronym TRUCK, ATA has developed a very simple set of guidelines for drivers to note and do:
Time of observation
Route or location
Communicate with law enforcement officers
Keep under observation
Beatty concedes that it’s a tall order to train 3 million drivers to be the eyes and ears of homeland security. “It’s a big elephant, but you eat it one bit at a time.” Beatty proposes Web-based training that could be downloaded by drivers and carriers throughout the country.
He also envisions kiosks at truck stops. Training materials will be fast-paced and entertaining based on feedback from focus groups representing different segments of the industry.
Truckload Carriers Association President Robert Hirsch has proposed that curriculum standards for the Professional Truck Driver Institute, which TCA manages, be modified to include training for security awareness. On a related issue, Hirsch also believes that truck-driving schools should be the first line of defense in background checks of people who would try to obtain CDLs.
Security by the colors
Because the industry wants to work with government, ATAP will be structured to be compatible with the five-level color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System announced last month by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. The advisory system runs from Green, meaning a low risk of terrorist attacks, through Red, which indicates severe risk.
ATA and the other members of the security task force of industry representatives late last month were still drafting their proposal for alert stages. Observers say, however, that even the lowest level, Green, would involve a nationwide Highway Watch program that incorporates security awareness. Higher levels – Blue, Yellow and Orange – would involve varying frequencies and degrees of driver and truck locating and check-calls.
Toward the higher threat levels, cargo theft would become a primary concern for law enforcement authorities. And at Red Alert, trucking operations can expect such steps as closed, secure convoys; secured routing; and checkpoints for trucks entering major cities.
Another possible element of the industry plan is an operations center staffed by ATA or a contractor that would field calls to a toll-free number from truck drivers and pass along to authorities those reports deemed to be credible.
Some big issues remain, such as the scope of new background checks and the need for a universal ID card for transportation workers (See “No more stinkin’ badges,” page 24). As part of last year’s PATRIOT Act, Congress required FBI background checks for drivers seeking commercial driver’s licenses with hazardous materials endorsements. Given that many now consider truck bombs to be as great a risk as misuse of a hazmat-hauling vehicle, there’s a move afoot to include all CDLs in DOT’s upcoming regulations.
The industry isn’t just waiting around for DOT, however. Tulsa, Okla.-based DAC Services, which offers employment screening services, recently signed a lease for space in the ATA building. DAC says the new office will allow DAC to work more closely with ATA and further their joint work, especially on security.
DAC is exploring an employer-based system for background checks rather than the state-based system contemplated by last year’s legislation, says DAC director Derek Hinton. House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) plans to advance legislation to authorize employers to run background checks through the FBI.
Such an enterprise would involve new areas for DAC, including access to FBI databases and fingerprinting. The idea of a privately run clearinghouse for such information is hardly new, however. Just last December, the Federal Aviation Administration designated the American Association of Airport Executives as the clearinghouse for criminal record checks conducted on all persons with access to secured areas of the nation’s airports.
A proposed Anti-Terrorism Action Plan being drafted by a trucking security task force will match a color-coded terrorism alert system announced last month by the Office of Homeland Security. Green is expected to include, at a minimum, a nationwide Highway Watch that incorporates security awareness training. Red might include closed convoys, secured routing and a system to clear trucks entering cities.
The goal of ATA and its coalition partners is to develop best practices and provide a united front on security. Every trucking operation needs to know how to assess potential vulnerabilities, identify effective responses and train their people to prevent terrorist acts. Fundamentally, says Canary, the industry needs to take charge of the situation rather than become its victim.
“If we can’t move freight, America stops,” Canary says. The short-term implications of a shutdown are dire enough, but Canary sees longer-term implications if supply chain partners lack confidence in the ability of law enforcement and the trucking industry to respond quickly and reasonably to a threat.
The U.S. economy is built on “just in time” freight, but fear of disruption could lead manufacturers, retailers and others toward increased warehousing, Canary says. “If the economy starts shifting to a ‘just in case’ structure, that’s not going to help the economy.”
Hazmat industry looks for quick response
Homeland security depends, fundamentally, on one thing – the ability to act on timely information. Currently, the highway patrol is dispatched about 27 minutes after an emergency 911 call is made, says Drew Robertson, managing director of the Freight Transportation Security Consortium (FTSC), a group of shippers, motor carriers and several asset-tracking and communications providers. With a system like the one FTSC is proposing to Washington lawmakers and regulators, response time to an attack on the hazardous materials supply chain could be shortened to 3 minutes, says Robertson, who has worked in the transportation industry for almost 30 years.
The consortium proposes a national monitoring center for the supply chain of hazardous materials and wants government assistance for the technology needed to support it. So far, Robertson says, the response from meetings with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been “very favorable.”
“The central monitor is going to notice incidents from the carrier, shipper or consignee,” Robertson says. “They will contact the first responders.” To accomplish this feat, the group is working to define standards of formatting and encrypting security-related data messages to the central monitor. Yet to be determined, however, is what exactly is an “incident” and who – the carrier, the shipper or the central monitor – will determine when it occurs.
“It is very important that we avoid the ‘cry wolf’ syndrome,” Robertson says. “People who do this, the police tend to ignore.” By having a unified voice for the hazmat supply chain, the consortium intends to gain credibility and quicker response time, he says.
The national monitoring center would be a privately run data clearinghouse. Even so, the coalition wants the government to help fund the costs of operating it. The group also seeks support for the deployment of technology to hazmat carriers and shippers. To ensure all hazmat carriers and shipments have load sensors and Global Positioning System tracking, the consortium proposes that the government provide incentives such as low-interest loans.
“It doesn’t do any good if the top 20 percent of the industry is doing it but the bottom 80 percent is not,” Robertson says. “Truckers and shippers should ensure that all vehicles have some type of GPS device. We shouldn’t let security be a competitive variable. That doesn’t work anymore.” Another suggestion to finance the increased costs, Robertson says, is to implement an across-the-board surcharge on the price of hazardous goods, similar to the airlines’ security surcharge.
– By Aaron Huff
No more stinkin’ badges!
Trucking companies that operate into and out of Florida’s ports have been frustrated by the separate identification badging requirements at each. But demands for separate ID cards are growing beyond ports. Some shippers and receivers have begun imposing their own requirements for background checks and ID badges. These frustrations are feeding a call for a national transportation worker ID.
“There are 14 ports in Florida,” notes Bud Coleman, president of Commercial Carrier Corp. “We have a large presence and service seven or eight of those ports.”
Coleman says a driver might visit three ports in a week. “At $60 or $70 a pop, that’s $180 for that driver. Multiply that by 850 drivers.” And remember, depending on a carrier’s turnover rate, it might have to multiply the number of drivers by two or three times to arrive at the number of IDs needed in a year. Comcar is urging the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create one port pass per driver. Although the pleas have been met with some sympathy, Coleman says, improvements haven’t come yet. “We’re supportive of all this additional security,” he says. “We’re just looking for a more sensible way to do it.”
In Virginia, the situation is better for fleets that haul into ports than it is in Florida, says Chick Rosemond, vice president sales and marketing for Wyatt Transfer. Rosemond, who serves as chairman of the Inland Transportation Committee for the Hampton Roads Maritime Association, says the ports, the railroads and the trucking industry have worked together to come up with a single identification card accepted in all the state’s ports.
The Virginia port ID cards include a picture and a data stripe that contains key information, such as the driver’s employer, his CDL number and Social Security number. Drivers must have the badge by April 1 to deliver into the ports, Rosemond says. “We haven’t had any issues. There’s no cost to carriers.”
Meanwhile, individual carriers have taken steps to ease shipper and receiver concerns over driver identity. KLLM Transport Services, Richland, Miss., for example, late last year equipped its terminals with digital cameras to create photo ID badges for all drivers. By mid-March, more than 80 percent of the fleet’s drivers had badges and the rest were on the way, says Jeff Barbee, director of special projects in KLLM’s safety and training department. The carrier plans to extend the program to all employees.
Superior Bulk Logistics, Oak Brook, Ill., also took digital photographs of all its drivers after Sept. 11, but it added an additional layer of security. Although Superior created tamper-proof badges, the company was still concerned that ID cards could be faked fairly easily, says Jeff St. Pierre, director of environmental health and safety. So Superior also uploaded the photos along with CDL numbers to a private website available only to the company and its shippers and receivers.
– Sean Kelley
The U.S. DOT’s Research and Special Programs Administration has issued advice on hazardous materials security plans. Most of the suggestions, however, would apply to any motor carrier concerned about security. For a copy of the advisory notice, which was published in the Feb. 14 Federal Register, visit http://dms.dot.gov and search Docket No. 11270.
ATA’s Security & Loss Prevention Management Council has scheduled a security forum for May 14-15 at the Clarion Barcelo Hotel near Chicago O’Hare International Airport. For more information, visit http://slpmc.truckline.com
Many of the steps used to fight cargo theft also are effective in counting terrorism. One resource is an audio conference sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association’s Truckload Academy audio conference entitled “Fighting Back Against Cargo Crime with a Chance of Winning.” To order audio cassettes of the conference, call KRM Information Services at (800) 816-2640 and reference number TCA6361-0.
FMCSA Motor Carrier Security www.fmcsa.dot.gov/mcs.htm
Office of Homeland Security www.whitehouse.gov/homeland
Transportation Security Administration www.tsa.gov
Highway Watch www.truckline.com/safetynet/highway_watch