ARE WE safer? Are we more secure today? These were among the questions pondered as the United States observed the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Tank truck carriers, railroads, ship lines, and storage terminals (which together move 800,000-plus hazardous materials shipments every day in the United States) have taken significant steps over the past two years to tighten security. Further, they have absorbed much of the cost of this effort and are continuing to invest in better security.
Some of the security processes and programs have come through industry initiatives, while others are government mandates. A good example of industry initiative can be seen in steps taken by NORIT Americas Inc to secure shipments of activated carbon used in water purification, food processing, and pharmaceutical applications. A profile on the NORIT Americas program starts on page 52.
Transport security has been addressed by associations representing both shippers and carriers. In many cases, the groups worked together in developing their recommendations. For instance, National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) and 14 food processing organizations developed a detailed set of guidelines to safeguard bulk food shipments. The recommendations are posted on the NTTC web site at tanktruck.org.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and NTTC worked together on the truck transport security aspects of the council's Responsible Care initiative. The Responsible Care Security Code emphasizes that safeguarding chemical shipments is a shared responsibility.
Under the Responsible Care Security Code, ACC members and their partners have moved aggressively to harden their facilities against the threat of terrorism. All Responsible Care members must have enhanced security procedures in place for transportation and other key issues by the end of 2004.
As if the industry initiatives aren't enough, the federal government is putting more attention on food and hazardous materials shipment security. The food security guidelines announced in mid-2003 are voluntary at this time. The hazmat transport security requirements are not.
Under the HM-232 rules issued by the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), hazmat shippers and transporters already should have a written security plan in place. The deadline was September 25.
Companies were required to begin providing general security awareness training as part of a federal mandate starting this past March. All hazmat employees must be trained on the written security plan by December 22.
It's important to note that RSPA defines a hazmat employee as anyone under corporate control (including an independent contractor) who performs any task covered by RSPA's Hazardous Materials Regulations. Companies need to make sure that employees sign off on any training they receive.
Whether any of these programs provide meaningful protection from terrorist threats depends on the level of commitment shown by industry and government in the coming months and years. Plans that simply gather dust on a shelf will do little to deter future threats.
Returning to the questions posed at the beginning of this editorial, the answer would have to be a qualified yes for the bulk logistics industry. Security has improved. No transport related terrorist incident has occurred in the United States since 2001. However, this is a free and open democracy, which means some level of risk will always be present.