Nov 082004
Authors: Ryan Riggen

Truckers are not only shipping goods and products to all parts

of the country, but they are also working to combat terrorism and

suspicious activity.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced an additional

$21 million grant available for use beginning in March 2005 for the

American Trucking Association’s Highway Watch Program.

The highway watch program was activated by the DHS to train

highway professionals to identify and report safety and security

concerns on the nation’s roads.

“We hope to train up to 300,000 people (nationally) by next

March,” said Mike Russell, spokesman for the American Trucking

Association. “We are in the area of 15,000 (trained) since stepping

it up in March.”

According to the DHS, the program will provide training and

communications infrastructure to prepare hundreds of thousands in

the highway sector to respond in the event they or their cargo are

the target of a terrorist attack and to share the valuable

intelligence with homeland security if they detect potential


Jennifer Peppin, Transportation Security Administration

spokesperson, said this recent grant is going to be used for two

things; the training of 400,000 people on the road to identify road

type terrorist activity and the expansion of a communication

network so threats can be reported quickly.

“An example is the D.C.-area snipers that were caught when a

trucker heard a description of the suspects’ license plate,” Peppin

said. “(Truckers) are the eyes and ears of the road and are very


Peppin said the program is still overseen by TSA, but the

day-to-day workings were recently turned over to the Office of

Domestic Preparedness, which is the principle component of the DHS

responsible for preparing the United States for acts of


Patti Olsgard, director of safety at the Colorado Motor Carriers

Association, said there was a different version of the program in

place seven years ago, which evolved into this program.

“One hundred to 150 people were trained in the last month,”

Olsgard said. “The program is open to anyone on the road who wants

to be trained.”

The training is free of charge and helps those who are regularly

on the road to be more aware of their surroundings.

“The drivers who do the same route all the time know what is

normal,” Olsgard said. “If they see anything (suspicious) they can

call the national number, which then will alert authorities in

certain jurisdictions.”

Among those who can receive training are commercial truck and

bus drivers, school bus drivers, highway maintenance crews, bridge

and tunnel toll collectors, and others.

According to the DHS, the program’s primary goal is to prevent

attacks by teaching highway professionals to avoid becoming a

target for terrorists who would use large vehicles or hazardous

cargo as a weapon. A secondary goal is to train highway

professionals to recognize and report suspicious activity.

“So far there has been a very positive response,” Russell said.

“Truck drivers are a patriotic bunch. It is an easy job to do while

driving a truck. We know what should be there, and shouldn’t be


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