SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA to GAO - some boneheaded stuff going on

| 1/10/2007

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 - Security in trucking is getting more and more attention from the federal level. But, is any of this attention really making the nation more secure?

That was the tough question tackled by several representatives for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, including Executive Vice President Todd Spencer, Director of Regulatory Affairs Rick Craig and Regulatory Specialist Joe Rajkovacz, as well as OOIDA Foundation Director Tom Weakley and Foundation Project Leader John Siebert.

The Jan. 8 meeting, which was requested by federal officials, was at the Association's headquarters in Grain Valley, MO, with representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

During the discussions, the OOIDA representatives pointed out that the time when truckers and trucking equipment is most vulnerable is when the trucks are parked.

GAO officials learned about the concerns of limited parking spaces and the lack of security in what parking is available.

"Terrorists aren't going to go to school and get a CDL and a hazmat endorsement," Craig said. "They're going to knock some trucker over the head and steal his truck."

Specifically for truckers hauling hazmat, the group made light of the so-called "safe havens" that are supposedly available to provide secure parking for hazmat loads.

"Ask where a safe haven is and you'll be told that they can't tell you," Weakley said. "And, if there really is one, it's 300 yards away from a truck stop in the dark back corner of the lot. That's real secure."

Another big point of discussion was whether tracking equipment would improve security.

"If there was a screen somewhere that showed where every truck in the country was in real time, the whole map would glow red," Craig said. "It's just not realistic."

Conversely, OOIDA reps encouraged shippers to be responsible for load tracking.

"That still presents a problem when you realize that the single most common hazmat load is gasoline," Spencer said. "Track that and you will see that the loads are right across the street from schools. What is that really going to tell you?"

In addition to parking, OOIDA representatives also discussed the impact of load tracking, CDL fraud, inequities in background checks required for U.S. drivers versus foreign drivers, border clearance initiatives, carrier security reviews, and Highway Watch on the nation's security.

GAO officials asked if Highway Watch improved security. OOIDA representatives pointed out many shortcomings in the program including quality of alerts issued, training and reporting mechanisms.

"Drivers will never embrace calling a third-party service to report something they see right now. They will want to call someone close that is in a position to respond," Spencer said.

 - By Jami Jones, senior editor