The trucking industry has found itself in a state of high alert as law enforcement authorities are now investigating whether additional attacks by terrorists may involve the use of commercial vehicles such as chemical tankers. The elevated alert status was prompted by new developments in the investigation revealed yesterday by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Declaring that terrorism ''is a clear and present danger to Americans today,'' Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that some people who sought CDL licenses with haz mat endorsements may have links to the hijackers of the four planes that crashed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Sources within the Justice Department say that about 20 people have been charged since the Sept. 11 attacks with fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain licenses to transport hazardous materials.
''Intelligence information available to the FBI indicates a potential for additional terrorist incidents,'' the attorney general told lawmakers.
Following the Sept. 11 attack, the U.S. Department of Transportation was prompt to disseminate transportation security advisories at the request of the FBI. The message was clear. Those who handle, store, or transport chemical, biological or radiological materials must be especially vigilant. David Longo, spokesman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said today an additional advisory is forthcoming and may be posted on the agency's website as early as tomorrow.
The FBI says that since Sept. 11, numerous terrorist threats have been reported, including unconfirmed reporting regarding potential use of such hazardous materials. The FBI is coordinating with DOT and EPA to ensure that adequate protective countermeasures are in place to prevent unauthorized use or possession.
The DOT says it has no information of any specific threats directed against additional targets, but the U.S. transportation industry should remain at a heightened state of alert and should implement security measures commensurate with this level of security.
The DOT, on behalf of the the FBI, asks truckers to be especially cautious. Any suspicious behavior by trucking company employees or customers should be immediately reported. Appropriate precaution is particularly advised regarding the transport of hazardous chemicals. Information on suspicious activity or pertinent information that would assist investigative/security efforts should be reported first to local law enforcement (state police) and then to local FBI. A formal threat assessment will then be conducted by the FBI and any other government agencies it may be necessary to involve.