Security spotlight

Feb. 1, 2006
SECURITY issues drew plenty of attention at the 2005 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar. Speakers addressed some of the common problems that crop up when

SECURITY issues drew plenty of attention at the 2005 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar. Speakers addressed some of the common problems that crop up when fleet security plans are reviewed, as well as some of the technologies that could make tank trailers more secure.

Flawed security plans topped the list of enforcement cases brought by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to Joe DeLorenzo with FMCSA. Security plan violations were followed by problems with training programs and shipping papers.

The first step tank truck fleets need to take to avoid enforcement action is to verify that they actually do have a written security plan. It is crucial to ensure that the plan is site-specific and that it contains a security assessment that is relevant and tailored to the facility. The assessment should be used as a guide in crafting the rest of the plan.

DeLorenzo encouraged fleet managers to use a graduated approach in the security plans. As an example, he suggested the following procedures to prevent unauthorized access to a hazardous materials storage area:

At the lowest threat levels (green, blue, and yellow) of the Homeland Security Advisory System, the storage area should be an enclosed building with lockable windows and doors. It should have an intrusion detection system that includes door and window contacts and interior motion detectors. Company policy should call for the building to be locked at all times. Keys to the building should be available only to hazmat-qualified staffers.

When the threat condition reaches orange (meaning a high likelihood of a terrorist attack), a guard should be posted outside the hazmat storage building during operating hours. Management must make sure the guard understands how hazardous materials will be handled at the facility.

At the red level (which means a severe threat of terrorism), a guard would be posted outside the storage building at all times. There would be a limited list of authorized personnel with access to the building, and only a limited list of materials could be removed from the building.

Training is a necessary part of any fleet security plan, and the training should be repeated at least every three years. The training program should address general awareness of the security plan. It should be function-specific.

As fleets strengthen their security plans, many are looking at technology as a means of protecting their operations. DeLorenzo reviewed some of the findings of the recent FMCSA study that examined the costs and benefits of various security technology systems.

“One of our conclusions is that technology alone will not be a complete security solution,” he said. “Only technology combined with sound security practices and supported by ongoing public and private outreach, training, and security programs can help to meet a constantly present threat. So far, we've seen that technology is most effective in reducing theft.”

He added that the FMCSA study quantitatively verified many assumptions about technology and security. Topping the list was the finding that wireless communication with global positioning capability should be the base level of security. These systems have positive benefit-cost ratios and payback periods within industry standards. Efficiency benefits are already driving deployment of these systems.

Other technologies tested in the FMCSA program provided incremental improvements in security. Technologies tested included panic alerts, driver identification, vehicle disabling, electronic cargo seals and cargo door locks, and electronic manifests.

Most of the technologies performed as expected, with two exceptions. Biometric identification devices didn't work well in the trucking environment. Good fingerprint reads were difficult due to environmental, ergonomic, and other issues.

Electronic seals also failed in the real world. Operational problems were identified with the process of assigning and locking seals. Trailer design affected seal operation. Use of the electronic seal was complicated.

Ben Ubamadu, Heil Trailer International, went into greater detail on security technology designed for use with tank trailers. He reviewed a variety of systems that show potential for the tank truck industry.

“We're talking about an intelligent trailer,” Ubamadu said. “Using OEM (original equipment manufacturer)-installed asset tracking and verification technology, we're able to turn a tank or bulk trailer into a system. The intelligent trailer concept combines information content and management with the necessary hardware into one complete package to enable better economic decisions by transportation companies and their customers.

“The intelligent trailer also is a cost-effective way to improve the security of hazmat shipments. Every hazmat trailer is a potential homeland security concern.”

The system starts with satellite tracking and communication with geo-fencing capability. With satellite coverage across North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East, the system can be used with tank containers as well as tank trailers.

Sensors on the trailer continually report updated cargo status to the main office. Trailer sensors can even verify that the shipment is being handled by an authorized driver or other personnel. In fact, only authorized personnel could operate the valves for loading and unloading.