The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) says its members stand ready to help the federal government prevent terrorists from using commercial trucks as weapons. Most owner operators and professional truckers have years of experience in trucking, and most have the ability to spot unusual behavior by vehicles on the highway or by drivers in truckstops.
"Truckers are a tremendous untapped resource for timely information about possible illegal behavior and terrorist activity on our roads and highways," says Jim Johnston, president of the OOIDA.
"For 30 years, truckers have chosen OOIDA more than any other organization as a trusted source for information on important trucking issues," says Johnston. "OOIDA has offered the federal government the association's ability to communicate important, timely information with truckdrivers in the war on terrorism."
OOIDA also told the federal government which areas of the trucking industry leave it most vulnerable to terrorism. These include the lack of meaningful commercial drivers license standards, the lax recruiting practices of many trucking companies, and the inability of the U.S. to screen foreign trucks and drivers coming into our country.
"The commercial drivers license program has so few requirements, it is an open invitation to terrorists to enter the trucking industry," says Johnston. "The report by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General last week criticizing the lack of CDL oversight just confirms the problems we have been reporting to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for years."
Johnston says the problem is exacerbated by motor carriers who recruit drivers with little or no business getting behind the wheel of anyone's truck. "Many motor carriers are known to recruit foreign drivers, persons who cannot speak English, and persons leaving prison, " says Johnston. "Some carriers also want to recruit teenagers to drive big trucks. Their entire focus is to recruit the cheapest labor possible, not retain the more experienced, safest drivers. Carriers who hire truck drivers on the cheap have a direct conflict of interest with national security goals."
Finally, as reported in a recent General Accounting Office report, the U.S. is ill-prepared to ensure the safety of trucks crossing our borders or even confirm the identity of their drivers. "Any national security plan that does not include the firm control of our borders is no security plan at all," says Johnston.
"These are the real national security issues in the trucking industry," Johnston says. "The federal government must provide leadership on these issues in order to reduce the likelihood of a truck being used in a terrorist attack."