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FMCSA warns of potential attacks by truck

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - The possibility of trucks being used as the weapon of choice in future terrorist attacks in the U.S. is real.That's the message the U.S Department of Transportation's Federal Moto...


HAZARDOUS SITUATION: If Osama bin Laden's goons were to get hold of a tanker, would you want to be with the company they got it from?
HAZARDOUS SITUATION: If Osama bin Laden's goons were to get hold of a tanker, would you want to be with the company they got it from?

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. – The possibility of trucks being used as the weapon of choice in future terrorist attacks in the U.S. is real.

That’s the message the U.S Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took to the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s management conference.

FMCSA’s Montana state director, Kris Phillips, visited the get-together to ensure Alberta carriers do whatever they can to minimize the threat of an attack by truck.

“We truly believe they are going to use our own hazardous materials against us in evil ways,” says Phillips. “We don’t want people to be paranoid, we just want people to be vigilant because that’s what’s going to stop most of the problems that are going to happen.”

Phillips, who doubles as an air traffic controller with the U.S. Navy, had many words of advice for fleet managers – especially those whose bread and butter comes from hauling dangerous goods.

“We, here in the West, tend to be very open and trusting and we kind of don’t believe in locked gates, but I think now we have to start looking at those kinds of things,” says Phillips.

Increased security is evident at the nation’s border crossings, but she says fleets should be just as diligent before the truck rolls out of the yard. In fact, she takes that a step further and encourages managers to screen all potential employees thoroughly before putting them in a truck.

“While your employees are your first line of defence, they’re also your biggest liability,” warns Phillips. She advises managers to do thorough background checks keeping a watchful eye out for lengthy employment gaps, suspicious past employers and fake documentation.

“(Maintaining) contact with drivers once a day is not sufficient anymore,” she stresses. She says there should be a code word in place that could be used by a driver in distress.

She suggests if fleets let their guard down, they become susceptible to one of the biggest threats existing today – identity theft.

The FMCSA is fearful that terrorists will try to steal a truck and trailer from a well-known, large fleet and then use it to melt into the infrastructure.

“They want to take a company name that’s well-known, they want the vehicle then ‘BOOM,’ they’re gone,” says Phillips. “You know very well that if it’s your company’s truck and it explodes in a million pieces the only thing that’s going to survive that explosion is (your logo). There will be a little piece of metal with your company name on it on the front page of every newspaper.”

With the U.S. in a heightened state of security, HazMat drivers are also being asked to take special precautions to make sure they don’t find themselves in hot water. That means avoiding high profile areas (including tunnels and bridges whenever possible), sticking to dangerous goods routes and reporting breakdowns immediately.

If anyone in attendance thought the suggestions were over the top, Phillips quickly put any such notions to rest. She related the story of a trucker who was found to have lied to Customs agents about his citizenship. Upon inspection, they discovered the Jordan native had HazMat certifications from Montana and Florida, a pilot’s licence and illegally owned weapons. He was hauling dangerous goods to Miles City, Montana – the home of America’s biggest producer and stockpiler of black powder.

“They’re in our backyard folks,” she warns. “Our gates are open we don’t have security cameras. They’ll come right up and shake your hand.” –


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