Issues of security

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Cargo security chief faults trailer security
Only 20 to 30 percent of truckers lock their trailers, a problem U.S. transportation officials say is a big threat to homeland security.

Speaking Dec. 5 at the eyefortransport Cargo Security Forum & Expo in Washington, D.C., Transportation Security Administration Cargo Security Director George Rodriguez said the trucking industry is resisting efforts to improve in this area. He hopes to change the law and to give states authority to ticket truckers who leave trucks unlocked.

“Every trailer should be locked,” he said.

Carriers are resistant to locking trailers because it reduces productivity, because they’ve never done it before, or because they say their trucks are always moving, Rodriquez said. “Some of them give good reasons. But most don’t.”

Rodriguez, former security director for Yellow Freight, said trucking companies also need to focus on unusual shipping practices to prevent theft and terrorism. Those anomalies include unknown shippers; shippers that bring merchandise to transportation companies; shippers that pay cash for services; shippers that give a P.O. box or bogus address; and shippers that use cell phone numbers.

A Yellow Freight program that focuses on similar anomalies identified 28 cases of illegal goods transportation, Rodriguez said. Seventeen were narcotic-related, but three contained materials that could have been used to make bombs and were referred to the FBI.

A transportation workers identification card is “years away,” Rodriguez said. The cards should cost between $25 and $35, depending on the level of background checks.

“This is a monumental job,” he said. “When we did background checks at Yellow, we had 28,000 workers. It was mind-boggling. There are 20 million transportation workers in the country.”

DOT, Customs launch
The Department of Transportation and the U.S. Customs Service have launched Operation Safe Commerce (OSC), a program to fund business initiatives designed to enhance security for container cargo moving throughout the international transportation system.

DOT and Customs will use the program to identify existing vulnerabilities in the supply chain and develop improved methods for ensuring the security of cargo entering and leaving the United States. Congress has provided $28 million for OSC to improve the security of container shipments through pilot projects involving the United States’ three largest container ports of entry – Los Angeles/Long Beach, New York/New Jersey and Seattle/Tacoma.

In comments to DOT on the proposal, the American Trucking Associations recommended that OSC remain open to any legitimate system or technology that could improve security – even if it is not yet commercially available.

ATA also emphasized the need to require that all projects assess the impact of the systems being tested on each mode of transportation, not just the supply chain as a whole, in order to identify market dislocations that might adversely impact an individual mode.

For more information on Operation Safe Commerce, visit this site and search Docket No. 13827.