Trucks and Terror: Recent attacks reinforce the value of sound security measures

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Security protocols are nothing new to well-managed fleets. It’s why trucks come with keys, fences enclose yards, and procedures track drivers and loads alike. The threat of cargo and equipment theft is all too real, and there is a price to pay for any losses.

Recent headlines reinforce another reason to be vigilant. It seems we now live in an era of the weaponized truck.

Last week, 28-year-old Fadi Qunbar slammed a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four and injuring 10. On December 19, 24-year-old Anis Amri killed 12 when he drove a truck into a popular Christmas market in Germany; the driver of that truck was shot dead in a related hijacking. And it is impossible to forget how 86 people were killed and 434 were injured when they were mowed down by a 19-tonne truck that sped into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France.

It would be all too easy to dismiss these threats as something limited to foreign lands. There is an ocean between us, after all. But we need to look no further than Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec for proof that Canada is not immune from vehicles being used in rolling attacks. Martin Couture-Rouleau wasn’t at the wheel of a truck, but he rammed his car into a pair of Canadian soldiers in October 2014, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. The only difference was mass and momentum.

Remember when discussions about weaponized trucks were limited to roadside bombs? Timothy McVeigh brought that threat home in 1995, when he loaded a Ryder straight truck with diesel and fertilizer, leveling Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killing 168 people. In 2005, fuel haulers were put on notice when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that Al Qaeda might commandeer fuel trucks for attacks on Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. That attack never occurred, but it wouldn’t have been without precedent. A suicide bomber killed 21 people in Tunisia when he detonated a propane tanker next to a synagogue. A load of sodium cyanide was also hijacked near Mexico City before its cargo was recovered. Imagine if that had fallen into the wrong hands.

Grabbing the keys requires far less planning. No expertise in explosives or specific load is required.

It all serves as a reminder of the need to be vigilant, no matter what your trucks carry or where you travel.

Many security measures can be traced to common sense – controlling the access to yards and loads, ensuring idling trucks are not left unattended, and addressing any business-specific risks that exist. The best practices of preclearance programs like the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), launched in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., could be applied to yards everywhere.

But once procedures are in place, everyone plays a role in taking them seriously and avoiding shortcuts in the name of saving time.

It’s not all about fighting terror, of course. It’s about keeping everyone safe from any threats which emerge.


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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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