Truckers are not only shipping goods and products to all parts
of the country, but they are also working to combat terrorism and
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
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