Hazmat Security: Our New Preoccupation

WE'VE HEARD so much recently about how our world changed in the United States on September 11 that it is beginning to sound cliché. There is no question, though, that bulk logistics companies now must address hazardous materials transport security on a level that is far different from anything most of them faced in the past.

In fact, security is becoming an overriding preoccupation for many companies throughout the transportation and logistics industry. A recent KPMG survey showed that many transportation company executives feel vulnerable to security breaches. The survey also indicated that security threats to the transportation industry have been steadily increasing.

Of the Fortune 1000 company executives who participated in the KPMG survey, 44% acknowledged that their companies are vulnerable to a significant security breach. Forty percent contend that their companies have inadequate security programs in place.

The survey results echo comments made by a number of individuals in the bulk logistics sector. In this issue, Modern Bulk Transporter takes an in-depth look at this industry's ability to meet the new security challenges. Our special report on bulk logistics security starts on page 14.

Security always was a concern for US tank truck carriers and other companies in the bulk logistics sector, but it used to be viewed in the context of a larger overall safety program. With the events of September 11, it became clear that bulk logistics operations could be prime terrorist targets.

Today, the bulk logistics industry is under intense pressure from many sides to boost its level of security preparedness. New laws and regulations have been passed in the past couple of months, and more are on their way. Some will bring improved security, while others may actually jeopardize public safety. All will bring higher operating costs.

Trucks hauling hazardous materials are a prime target for inspections by law enforcement officials nationwide, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Drivers operating regionally report being stopped for inspection two or three times on a single trip. Some drivers of petroleum rigs say it's not uncommon to be pulled over for inspection three or four times a week.

One example of a law still to come is the Chemical Security Act of 2001, which would transfer authority to regulate truck and rail shipments of hazardous chemicals from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is a bad idea.

Regulatory authority for hazardous materials shipments currently resides with the DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), and this is where it should stay. RSPA officials have decades of experience handling hazmat transportation issues. They are the transport issue experts, not the ivory-tower bureaucrats at EPA.

Even more worrisome is the state requirement for a so-called anti-terrorism device that is being considered by California's Governor Gray Davis. This Rube Goldberg-style device was developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories to allow police officers to shutdown a hijacked tanker rig by ramming it from behind.

As National Tank Truck Carriers Vice-President John Conley points out, the device is a disaster waiting to happen. For instance, it would give a terrorist an easy way to take over a tanker rig. Then he could hijack the tanker or explode it right where it was stopped on a bridge or in a downtown area. All of this was conveniently ignored in the television coverage of the governor's announcement in late November.

Without question, security must be improved throughout the bulk logistics sector. None of us want to see terrorists turn trucks or railcars into rolling bombs. The government initiatives, even the crazy ones, are understandable. We all want to protect the public.

Still, we need common-sense security measures. Excellent guidelines for improving security have been assembled by several associations that represent the bulk logistics sector. For instance, site and transportation security guidelines can be downloaded from the American Chemistry Council (www.americanchemistry.com) and National Association of Chemical Distributors (www.nacd.com) web sites. The Independent Liquid Terminals Association has assembled a six-page list of security guidelines and procedures.

We must realize that it will take time for the bulk logistics sector to fully raise its security focus. Perspective also will come with time. As we move farther from September 11, we'll have a much better idea of which security measures provide the best payback.

As one association executive explains: A year from now, this industry will be far more secure than it is today.

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