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TSA warns fleets, drivers that terrorists could target trucks for hijacking and ‘ramming attacks’

The Transportation Security Administration has issued an internal report warning of the potential for terrorists to use trucks as weapons to conduct attacks. TSA also released a list of countermeasures, mostly involving awareness of surroundings and reporting suspicious activity, that truck owners and operators should heed to help prevent such attacks from occurring.

Though none have occurred in the U.S., high-profile truck-ramming attacks have been carried out elsewhere, including a July 2016 attack in Nice, France, that killed 87 people and injured 430, and a similar attack in December 2016 in Berlin, Germany, in which 12 people were killed and 56 were injured. The TSA report cites these and 15 other vehicle-ramming attacks, 10 of which occurred in the past 10 months. The straight truck used in the Nice attack was rented, but the truck and trailer used by terrorists in the Berlin attack was hijacked and driven to Berlin by the assailant. The trucker was murdered by the attacker during the hijacking.

Carriers and drivers should maintain “a high level of alertness,” the report says, and should report suspicious activity to authorities and, in the case of drivers, to their carrier. Other countermeasures for carriers and drivers include parking in secure locations, ensuring vehicles are locked, refusing rides for hitchhikers and other strangers and, for carriers, ensuring route compliance of drivers.

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“Commercial vehicle owners and operators should alert their staff to possible theft or hijacking of vehicles by would-be attackers and the importance of reporting suspicious activities to appropriate authorities,” the report says.

Dubbed “Vehicle Ramming: Threat Landscape, Indicators and Countermeasures,” the memo was issued to Homeland Security staffers, law enforcement agencies and others this week. The seven-page internal memo, marked unclassified, was obtained by Overdrive Friday.

“Terrorist organizations overseas have advocated conducting vehicle ramming attacks…against crowds, buildings and other vehicles. It is likely that terrorist groups will continue to encourage aspiring attackers to employ unsophisticated attacks such as vehicle-ramming, since these types of attacks minimize the potential for premature detection and could inflict mass fatalities, if successful,” according to the report.

Trucks in particular “present an especially attractive mechanism for ramming attacks,” the report says, “because of the ease with which they can penetrate security barriers and the large-scale damage they can inflict on people and infrastructure.”

— David Hollis contributed to this report.

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James Jaillet is the News Editor for CCJ and Overdrive. Reach him at jjaillet@randallreilly.com.