—by Dick Larsen, senior editor
TSA in March this year officially assumes duties as the largest of 21 agencies within the new Homeland Security Department — and to date, proposals for keeping rigs locked and verifying truckdriver IDs via a biometric card are taking shape.
TSA spokesman Brian Doyle told Land Line initial efforts would focus on training truckdrivers to prevent hijacking. The training would be offered in conjunction with other groups, he said.
Other focus areas include development of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC card.
“TSA is starting to take a close look at what we can do to improve highway security,” he said.
Undersecretary of Transportation for Security Adm. James M. Loy said the TWIC would combine personal information and biometrics to identify transportation workers who have access to secure areas.
Loy spoke Jan. 15 in Washington, DC, to the Transportation Research Board’s 82nd annual meeting. He said the TWIC was a good thing because truckdrivers would have only one card to deal with that would be acceptable across the United States.
“The idea is to have employees undergo only one standard criminal background investigation. It would link them to a central database that would be accessible nationwide,” Loy said. “And it could serve as an international standard. I’ve heard there are some truckdrivers currently carrying up to 23 ID cards around their necks. I wouldn’t want to pay that chiropractor bill.”
Reacting to the proposal, Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said, “The first question is, who will have access to this nationwide database? Will it be private companies, or only the federal government, or both?
“On Mr. Loy’s second point, I’m inclined to believe the TWIC proposal will in reality mean truckdrivers will be carrying 24 cards instead of 23, making the chiropractor’s job even more taxing,” Spencer said. “The only needed form of truckdriver ID is the commercial driver’s license, and if that doesn’t come to mean an assurance of safety and security, it simply won’t mean anything at all.”
Loy said, meanwhile, existing transportation personnel security systems were inadequate and present a significant risk to the country.
“We’re talking about everyone from pilots and mechanics to airline catering and custodial workers — truckdrivers and warehouse workers loading pallets and trailers, to dock workers and ship crews,” he said.
Loy added: “I’d also like to tell you how TSA is fast becoming the steward of security for the nation’s transportation systems. And that’s all modes — not just aviation travel, but maritime, rail, highway, transit and pipeline. Our mission is to protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. We have the added challenge of ensuring transportation security in a shaky economic environment.”
Truck lockup rules
Toward that end, TSA says it wants a truck-lockup rule because it worries about terrorists hiding remote-controlled bombs or other weapons inside trucks as part of a plan to target cities or strategic locations.
Spencer said the issue deserved more thought.
“Padlocks would have done little to prevent past terrorist activity involving trucks. In Israel recently, a bomb was planted on the underside of a truck and later detonated via remote control. It’s a stretch to imagine how a locked truck could have prevented this incident.”
Nevertheless, in November last year, TSA’s associate undersecretary for maritime and land security testified before Congress that “a key concern of TSA is the security of cargo on trucks. In our view, the current state of cargo security in the trucking industry may not be adequate to respond to the threat that we face from terrorists.”
“TSA is considering the necessity of an industrywide cargo-locking policy. If implemented, this will help prevent terrorists from hijacking trucks or cargo and will provide the trucking industry with the added benefit of reducing cargo theft.
“Obviously, there are many materials lawfully imported into the United States but which can be diverted to terrorist needs. Therefore, the chain of security must be strong throughout the transportation system.”
Meanwhile, George Rodriguez, director of cargo security for TSA’s Maritime and Land Security division, took the issue a step further in a Dec. 5 speech, “Every truck that’s on the road in the United States should be kept locked, and I’m steadfast in my commitment to getting that to happen.”
Rodriguez, who was director of security for Overland Park, KS-based Yellow Corp., spoke during a conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
He said the lockup requirement would apply to tractor-trailers, FedEx and UPS delivery trucks, and even trucks rented by people to move their furniture and other items.
Rodriguez said TSA was discussing the proposed rule internally, as well as with shipping and trucking companies. The regulation is expected in July this year, according to press reports. That will be followed by a period for public comment before the regulation goes into effect.
Under the proposed change, trucking and shipping companies would be required to install locks on their trailers and storage areas. They would have to use them on federal, state and local roads.
Drivers and trucking companies would be ticketed and face federal fines for not having or using the locks. Drivers would be allowed to unlock the trucks to retrieve and pick up items. But they would have to keep them locked most other times, including when the truck is moving and when the driver walks away to make deliveries, Rodriguez said.
TSA and private industry to cooperate
Many TSA proposals regarding communications, cargo tracking and background checks involve partnerships with local government, various transportation groups and industry. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has opposed any effort resulting in private companies having access to and controlling personal information about truckdrivers.
“Years ago, we implemented the commercial driver’s license program, but have since discovered it’s not uncommon for CDLs to be sold by state employees in exchange for bribes. We also found out states don’t verify Social Security numbers and other vital information,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said.
“Several handpicked companies are now encouraged by the federal sector to offer up gadgets and other Big Brother gizmos that serve only to fulfill their own economic ends — they probably think they’ve won the lottery. If we succumb to this nonsense, terrorists will have won because they will have taken away our freedom,” Spencer said.
A case in point: DAC Services is testing a program at the Port of Houston where fingerprints are captured and stored on smart cards to confirm driver ID and to control access to secure terminal areas.
In a release, DAC said of its TransSecure program: “Access control based upon identity verification is crucial to enhancing security at our nation’s seaports.”
The effort also includes Maximus and International RAM. DAC is a private company providing employment screening and drug and alcohol testing for the transportation industry.
Spencer said DAC’s effort duplicates background check requirements at the federal level.
“DAC and its partners are private companies that should not be handling personal information related to truckdrivers entering port areas,” Spencer said. “We’ve made our privacy concerns clear to the Justice Department as it implements its background check requirements, and they have said personal driver information will only be handled by federal officials.”
H. Thomas Kornegay, executive director of the Port of Houston Authority, said, “We recognize this is merely a component of a required comprehensive security solution; however, it is an important component, as it gives us the ability to know more and verify who has access to our facility outside of our employees.”
DAC has conducted training, concluding with user testing and verification of drivers. The procedure at the terminal entrance involves the driver presenting a TranSecure card to security personnel and providing a live fingerprint on a portable biometric reader. A security guard compares the live print with the print template embedded on the TranSecure card to confirm a match before authorizing the driver to enter the area.