California looks to neutron sniffers, truck bumper bangers and dogs

| 7/2/2002

The terrorist attacks of September 11 changed the face of the world and of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), according to Stan Perez, deputy chief of enforcement services for the CHP.

For that reason, and an earlier incident when a truck crashed through the California State House, the CHP wants to improve trucking security. One idea is the use of a controversial "double-impact break activation system" developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA.

The system activates a truck's air brakes when a police car in pursuit twice "nudges" a metal bar running at the end of the trailer at bumper level. It's intended to stop stolen or hijacked fuel trucks. Perez showed a video of the system in action at last week's International Trucking Show in Las Vegas.

"We're only experimenting with this device," he said. "This is for the really bad guy - the Osama Bin Laden who steals a truck. . . We're not putting it on all trucks." The video showed Homeland Security Head Tom Ridge riding with officers while the device was tested, which "made the Secret Service very nervous," said Perez.

Meanwhile, the CHP is also looking to "neutron sniffers" that would detect nuclear devices or components in addition to biological agents inside trucks. A truck could travel 10 or 15 mph while being "sniffed," Perez said. The CHP has also added dogs at its port and border facilities to inspect all vehicles and is looking at the use of Global Positioning Satellite systems to enable carriers to monitor the location of its trucks anytime.

"We're worried that carriers can't always find those who transport hazardous materials," said Perez, who told of an incident where a carrier could not locate a truck transporting 40 canisters of rocket fuel from a California military base to the East Coast. The truck was eventually found, Perez said.

--Dick Larsen, senior editor