Trucking industry says it is prepared for terrorism threat

Published 19 March 2010

Trucking industry says that contrary to a scenario in a recent report on the subject, in which a gasoline tanker is hijacked and disappears, a rigorous daily delivery schedule means an out-of-route tanker would be reported very quickly, with or without tracking gear; industry calls for a single, uniform background checking approach

A recent study for DHS urges the government and trucking to tighten security in order to prevent terrorists from using gasoline tankers as weapons. The Trucker’s Kevin Jones writes that industry representatives, however, say tanker safety has always been a priority, and the safeguards in place since 9/11 have proved effective.

“We consider gasoline tankers, and to a lesser extent, propane tankers to be the most attractive options for terrorists seeking to use highway-borne hazmat because they can create intense fires in public assemblies and residential properties,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s National Transportation Security Center of Excellence. “We strongly urge that DHS, state governments and the industry take a renewed look at flammable liquids and gases as a weapon of opportunity, and at a strategy to improve security measures and technology.”

The institute’s report, Potential Terrorist Uses of Highway-Borne Hazardous Materials, urges that the government, which it says has focused more on hazmat that can cause catastrophic losses, also focus “as terrorists tend to” on the most readily available, least protected hazmat.

The researchers note that terrorists have discussed substituting fire for harder-to-acquire explosives. Gasoline tankers have greater appeal because “they can easily produce intense fires, operate in target-rich environments with predictable routes, and pose few security challenges,” the report suggests.

The report calls for a “clear strategy” to increase and sustain security, and for resolving “significant jurisdictional issues” between federal and state authorities; strengthening hazmat security measures in the field; and implementing “vehicle tracking technologies, panic alarms, and immobilization capabilities” for vehicles carrying specific hazardous materials, including gasoline.

Jones writes that those in the trucking industry, however, may question whether more government research was necessary to determine that a gasoline tanker, if mishandled, could be dangerous. “There are really no new findings in this report,” said Rich Moskowitz, vice president and regulatory affairs counsel for the American Trucking Associations (ATA). He suggested the study simply concludes that gasoline does burn, that tankers do operate in highly populated areas, and that gasoline is probably easier to come by than explosives.

He also noted the report highlights that industry security measures are already in place. “And these security measures have been effective,” he said. “No terrorist attacks using commercially transported hazmat have occurred in the United States since Sept. 11.”

Of course, the possibility of such an event is conceivable “on an academic level,” but Moskowitz readily ticks off a list of