The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has asked the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) to contact carriers to inform them that hazardous materials security is now the number one issue for the agency, according to NTTC president Cliff Harvison. A directive to FMCSA field staff orders inspectors to visit hazardous materials carriers to increase security awareness and to review driver records. FMCSA stresses that these are not enforcement visits, and requests carrier cooperation. The initiative is named Security Sensitive Visits. While the intention is to visit as many hazmat carriers as staff resources will allow, priority will be given to carriers of hazardous materials that have the potential to inflict the most damage on a city, such as explosives and chlorine. Carriers may be asked to detail their hiring procedures and will be encouraged to beef up those procedures. Carriers can cooperate by having a list of drivers and driver qualification files available. They should check the files to ensure no drivers are illegal aliens, says Harvison. If carriers have concerns about a driver or applicant, they should contact their local FBI office, he adds. Here are some of the specifics at which the inspectors will be looking: Review a driver list and, if possible, identify those drivers whose names can be linked to one of the countries that have been identified that support terrorist activities; Ensure that detailed background checks have been performed on these individuals as required by the regulations; Recommend more detailed background checks for suspicious individuals. Look at the following for indicators: Gaps in employment. Frequent job shifts. All names used by the applicant. Type of military discharge. Citizenship. Present and prior residence information. Personal references. Criminal history. Verify U.S. citizenship for all employees. For those employees who are not United States citizens, verify that all immigration papers are on file and properly documented. Make sure that interviews are conducted when hiring new drivers/employees. Obtain information that will help to appraise the personality, character, motivation, honesty, integrity, and reliability, and to judge appearance and personnel characteristics face to face. FMCSA also will increase roadside inspections of hazardous materials vehicles and of drivers with hazmat or cargo tank endorsements. Again, please notify NTTC staff of any related enforcement or operational developments within individual states, Harvison advised the carriers. John Conley, NTTC vice-president, will attend the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance meeting in San Diego, beginning September 30. FMCSA Chief Safety Officer Julie Anna Cirillo is scheduled to speak at that meeting, according to Harvison. Soon after the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a policy waiving compliance with drivers hours-of-service regulations in those cases where the driver and vehicle were involved in providing assistance to the relief effort. "At no time did DOT put this in writing, and don't expect to see it in writing in the future," says Harvison. "Discussions with DOT officials affirm that the waiver would apply to vehicles and drivers delayed in serving New York City (and the area in and around the Pentagon), and facilities such as military installations, commercial airports, and international borders, particularly at the Canadian border. "On the other hand, the waiver did not apply to service to retail gasoline outlets which ran out of product due to the panic buying of gasoline and diesel. That scare has since subsided. Drivers are expected to enter notations in the remarks section of their logs." On Friday, September 14th representatives of Transportation Secretary Norm Minetta contacted NTTC and asked the association to inform its members that carriers of hazardous materials take certain precautionary actions such as rerouting hazmat shipments away from heavily populated areas, to the extent practicable, and to be on the alert for suspicious activities, says Harvison. Moreover, the Secretary has asked state and local authorities to be on the lookout for any hazmat shipments which appear to be off route. "I want to point out again that none of this is in writing," adds Harvison. During the week of September 24-28 the NTTC staff participated in a number of meetings and telephone conferences with government and private entities regarding transportation and product security. Those meetings included discussions with the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its concern about bulk and packaged foodgrade shipments. Because commentary had been forwarded to NTTC by foodgrade carriers, NTTC was able to list security concerns that centered on four issues: the relative ease of tampering with seals; the problem of units left at cleaning racks being out of the carriers' custody and oversight; public accessibility to rail intermodal sites; and carriers' lack of control over hoses and other product transfer equipment provided by the shipper or consignee. "To put the matter in context, please note that at the end of a one-hour conference call, industry representatives asked FDA officials if they had any questions. FDA responded that they were so new to the situation that they did not know what questions to ask," says Harvison, adding, "Their candor was refreshing. Nonetheless, future regulatory controls issued by FDA, should come as no surprise, although FDA usually regulates by imposing controls on shippers and consignees." Similar discussions have been conducted between NTTC and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). ACC has established a security task force with the railroad industry, and NTTC has offered to meet with the groups should they decided to include the highway mode. "We have asked ACC to communicate with their members' security and logistics personnel the need to better communicate with their carriers, particularly in terms of routing and operational decisions for high hazard and precursor chemicals," says Harvison. "Alternatively, ACC has told us that some chemical shippers are performing detailed searches of trucks at plant gates. The searches include the drivers' personal belongings. They have noted that some drivers carry licensed firearms in their vehicles. In such instances, vehicles will be refused entry." With regard to petroleum shipments, NTTC is unaware of any industry-wide programs by the American Petroleum Institute (API), but has learned that at some racks, particularly those near urban areas, tank truck access is under tighter control. Another issue related to the CDL concerns some customer demands that the carrier provide copies of the licenses of either all drivers in the fleet, or those drivers who serve specific sites. "You should note that as issued by many states, the CDL would contain information such as an address, date of birth, and social security number," says Harvison. "Some laws at the state and federal levels may prohibit employers from providing this information. This includes information gathered from employment application forms and credit checks. However, the FBI has pointed out that such data in the wrong hands could greatly ease the creation of fake credentials, documents, and credit purchases. Prudence dictates that the release of this information should be at the sole discretion of the individual CDL holder." NTTC advises carrier that find themselves in such a situation, to create and retain written authorization from the driver. The association also notes that in all its discussions with government and industry representatives, NTTC has underscored the difficulty carriers have in both tracing and verifying the employment histories of drivers and driver applicants. "It is one thing to have a DOT regulation which mandates that you collect and/or provide certain information; it is quite another thing to open yourself to a costly and damaging lawsuit," says Harvison. NTTC also is advising companies that transport both bulk and non-bulk containers to discuss increased security measures with their foreign and/or domestic customers and suppliers.