AS THE Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to study the potential safety and security of hazardous materials transportation, the tank truck industry would do well to be involved in the effort.
“It's better to be leading than following in this issue,” said Tom Moses, president of the Spill Center. He made the comments at the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) Annual Conference and Tank Truck Equipment Show May 9-11 in Chicago, Illinois.
FMCSA has completed a 24-month security study that began in September 2002 and culminated in a six-month field testing of multiple technologies.
“Technology is not the complete solution,” Moses said, but added that its use can provide many benefits, particularly in reducing tractor/trailer thefts.
Theft and tampering of tank trailers carrying hazardous materials became a concern in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Fears centered on the potential for terrorists to highjack a truck carrying hazardous materials, or use it in some other fashion to commit a terrorist act.
The purpose of the FMCSA study and field test was to determine security costs and benefits of applying technology and improved enforcement procedures to hazmat transportation in an effort to prevent a terrorist act.
The study was designed to address risk areas that include driver verification, off-route vehicle alerts, stolen vehicles (both tractors and trailers), unauthorized drivers, cargo tampering, and suspicious cargo deliveries.
Onboard technical devices insure that a carrier knows almost immediately if there is an incident, Moses pointed out.
Among the technologies studied were communication systems that included satellite and terrestrial communications with global positioning systems (GPS) and tracking capabilities, and digital mobile phone technologies without GPS.
Panic buttons were studied for sending emergency alert messages. They came in two configurations, a panic button mounted inside the vehicle to send an emergency alert, and a wireless panic button that can be carried by the driver to remotely send an emergency alert and/or use the remote panic button to disable the vehicle.
A driver authentication with global login, similar to a username and password on a computer system, was reviewed, as was authentication with biometric verification. An alert would be generated if a driver doesn't enter the login correctly or if a false biometric response occurs, Moses said.
Another part of the study included a public sector reporting system, somewhat like a war room, that involved a team that would provide law enforcement with real-time hazmat alerts. The center was staffed live, 24/7, and was able to incorporate wireless voice/data communications, satellite-tracking technology, automatic routing of alerts to authorities, and online access to highly specialized data.
Moses pointed out that this is another area in which carriers should be involved in the planning. If an incident occurred and they were notified by the center, they could designate how they wished to be contacted, based on the severity of the incident — such as by fax, telephone, or e-mail.