DOT urges vigilance in transportation community

| Friday, September 28, 2001

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a haz mat safety alert for the entire transportation community, asking that security measures in the transportation community be reviewed and strengthened as appropriate. The agency is requesting shippers and transporters of high-hazard materials to consider altering routes to avoid populated areas whenever practicable.

"I understand the complexity of these issues, and I know there have been numerous studies on many of these issues. Yet the larger context has changed dramatically," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a released statement. "We now face a different security threat not only in transportation, but in all aspects of American life. We have to be willing to meet that changed threat with additional counter-measures, and still find ways to keep our transportation systems the efficient and vital circulation system of our economy. We must therefore judge our security options in a different light than we might have judged them in the past."

The DOT stresses that hazardous materials placed in the wrong hands poses a threat to security and doesn't take a high degree of training, technical expertise, or sophisticated equipment to attack with devastating results. Transportation vehicles and infrastructure are potential "soft" targets. The agency lists several reasons for this: the number of vehicles and structures makes them difficult to defend; the economic impact of destroying infrastructure could be significant; and the public psychological impact of an incident could be tremendous.

"As it would be impossible to institute airport-style security checkpoints by all modes of transport, such as highway, preventing such attacks may be accomplished by simply making transportation workers aware of their surroundings. Transportation workers should watch for and report any suspicious activities they may see. Hazmat vehicles should not be left unattended. Companies should insure that hazardous materials are in responsible and reliable hands."