Qualcomm, others introduce Amber Alert Highway Network

Norm Ellis, vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions’ Transportation and Logistics unit, announces the launch of the Amber Alert Highway Network to help in the effort to rescue abducted children. Qualcomm, Wal-Mart and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children have cooperated in a similar initiative for about three years.

Building on an effort launched with Wal-Mart about three years ago, Qualcomm Inc., in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), announced on Thursday the launch of a nationwide program to alert truck drivers in the event a child is abducted nearby.

The Amber Alert Highway Network is supported by the American Trucking Associations, which hosted a news conference Thursday, March 9, to announce the initiative.

“We are truly humbled to lend our technology and voice to this worthwhile effort,” said Norm Ellis, vice president and general manager, Transportation and Logistics for Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions (QWBS) in announcing the program at ATA’s Capitol Hill office. In a written statement, QWBS President Joan Waltman added, “We encourage fleets to learn more and join the Amber Alert Highway Network so that even more of America’s trucking professionals can participate.”

The first motor carriers to join the network include Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, Cornhusker Motor Lines, Distribution Technologies, G&P Trucking, U.S. Xpress, Pottles Transportation, Grammer Industries and Maverick Transportation. But Ellis expects the number of members to grow rapidly in the coming weeks. For example, Qualcomm will be promoting the Amber Alert Highway Network next week at the Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting in Orlando.

Under the new program, when an Amber Alert is issued, NCMEC will notify Qualcomm, which send text messages to OmniTRACS mobile communications units to drivers that are participating in the program and are located in specified zip codes within a certain radius of the abduction. “Proximity is key,” Ellis says, noting that drivers would come to pay less attention if Amber Alerts were distributed systemwide regardless of the site of the abduction.

The new program is similar to RoadWatch, which Wal-Mart, Qualcomm and MCMEC started in 2003. With tens of thousands of more drivers participating, the Amber Alert Highway Network will allow for much greater precision in distribution. Under RoadWatch, alerts went to all trucks domiciled at the Wal-Mart distribution center closest to the abduction, so the truck could be a couple hundred miles away from the abduction. The scale of the new program means that a significant number of trucks are likely to be in close proximity.

“The American Trucking Associations wholeheartedly supports the Amber Alert Highway Network,” ATA President Bill Graves said. “Motor carriers and their drivers, our knights of the roads, are proud to be a part of this important initiative.”

“We are proud to work with Qualcomm to broaden the reach of the Amber Alert program to the men and women on our nation’s roadways every day, and we welcome the support of the American Trucking Associations as a sign of its commitment to helping us bring children home,” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC.

Wal-Mart’s head of transportation said the retailing giant, which employs about 9,000 truck drivers, is proud to be a charter member of the expanded Amber Alert effort. “This is one of the easiest things for us to do because our associates continue to ask what more they can do,” said Tim Yatso, senior vice president of transportation for Wal-Mart. NCMEC’s Allen noted, for example, that 142 lives have been saved as a direct result of Wal-Mart customers seeing NCMEC photographs during visits to the stores.

The Amber Alert program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters and transportation agencies to issue an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. The program originally was established in 1997 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area following the high-profile abduction of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington. Since this time, Amber Alert programs have been established in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The Amber Alert Highway Network is not established as exclusive to Qualcomm and its customers, although initially it’s open only Qualcomm customers using OmniTRACS. For more information about the Amber Alert Highway Network and instructions to enroll, go to www.qualcomm.com/qwbs or call 800-348-7227.