Bulking Up on Security
Dec 1, 2001 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
A VISIT to The Linden Companies web site (www.lindenmotorfreight.com) shows how much things have changed for US tank truck carriers in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC. Service factors, such as 24-hour access and just-in-time pick-up and delivery, no longer seem to be the prime consideration.
Instead, the spotlight now is on security issues. Click on the large security awareness block in the center of the Linden homepage, and the viewer is taken to an area of the web site that offers details on steps taken to safeguard operations at each of the corporation's three divisions, one of which is Linden Bulk Transportation.
Heightened security awareness is one thing. Actually increasing security preparedness is another. Recent interviews conducted by Modern Bulk Transporter show that the bulk logistics sector in the United States remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Many companies still have not put any meaningful security plans into place.
One reason is cost. The bulk logistics sector — which includes tank truck carriers, tank container depots, rail transloading facilities, storage terminals, and rail tankcar operations — faces staggering costs associated with upgrading equipment and facility security.
Richard Carr, vice-president of safety at Quality Distribution Inc, estimates that it may take billions of dollars to adequately secure truck terminals, transloading yards, and other facilities in the bulk logistics industry. “In this current economic downturn, the money may not be available for a massive upgrade in security,” he says.
“Timing would seem to favor the terrorists. We're so new to the whole terrorist scenario. We're way behind the curve. Other countries have been dealing with the risks of terrorism for years.”
William J O'Donell, senior vice-president at Superior Bulk Logistics, adds that the industry simply needs to make a rational effort to boost security. “Overall, I would say that the tank truck industry has provided good security in the past. Security always has been important to us, and we've woven it into our safety practices and programs such as Responsible Care,” he says.
“I don't think anyone could say that we've done everything we could to make this industry secure. However, it would take tremendous effort and expense to close all of the loopholes. Even with an all-out effort, I don't know if it's possible, but I do know that the additional security costs will impact the ability of tank truck carriers to survive.”
In fact, companies throughout the bulk logistics sector are already feeling the cost impact of heightened security procedures. Considerable productivity has been lost. Among other difficulties, fleets continue to report security-related loading and unloading delays at customer facilities.
Many shippers and receivers have reduced the number of hours available for truck loading and unloading. “A rig arriving early can't get plant access now,” says Marcel Pouliot, Trimac director of safety services for North America. “This not only reduces our productivity but poses security concerns, because the driver must find a safe place to park until he can enter the plant.”
Some petroleum loading terminals reportedly have begun requiring fingerprints for all drivers pulling product at those locations.
“We've seen more restrictions on new drivers going to some locations,” says Laraine Bias, transportation manager at Propane Resources. “We have to provide 24 to 48 hours notice to loading terminals before a new driver picks up his first load of propane.”
Tractor-trailer rigs, especially those transporting hazardous materials, are being stopped more frequently for inspection by law enforcement officials. This has significantly cut productivity. The expense of paying a driver to sit behind the wheel of a truck that goes nowhere has been calculated at $72 an hour by the American Trucking Associations.
At the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, many carriers scoured their employee databases looking for possible terrorist sleeper agents. Photo ID badges have become a requirement throughout the bulk logistics sector. Some companies are hiring security guards, while others are making sure terminals and other facilities have staff on duty through more hours of the day.
All of this has added significant new costs at a time when the tank truck industry was already hurting from an economic slowdown that started last year. Tank fleets certainly aren't alone, though. Estimates suggest that heightened security could drain as much as $110 billion out of US gross domestic product this year.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan acknowledges that higher security costs are taking a bite out of the US economy. He compares it to the military buildup that accompanied the Cold War: spending that offers protection without contributing to the nation's standard of living.
Despite the higher costs, most companies in the bulk logistics sector agree that heightened security is a must at this time. “We're trying to give peace of mind to other Americans,” Carr says. “We feel a responsibility to the public.”
Nobody in the bulk logistics sector wants to bear the responsibility for providing terrorists with the means for another attack on a US target. For everyone, the nightmare scenarios are very similar: A terrorist commandeers a tanker rig carrying hazardous materials and turns it into a rolling bomb, or a foodgrade shipment is contaminated with a deadly poison or bacterial agent.
Federal officials and others seem to think that these fears are justified. In numerous public and private comments made over the past couple of months, they have stated that follow-up waves of terrorist attacks can be expected. Trucks, railcars, and ships may be used just like the airliners that were crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
This concern is one reason that most types of trucks remain banned from a 40-block area around the Capitol building in Washington DC. Fear also was a motivating factor in a 72-hour embargo in early October on rail shipments of materials classified as poisonous by inhalation that was imposed by the nation's major railroads.
Neither of these actions came as a result of a direct threat, but they show the heightened sense of concern being felt by many people in the United States. There is no question that the terrorist threat has altered the way business is being conducted.
“We now face a different security threat not only in transportation, but in all aspects of American life,” says Norman Y Mineta, secretary of transportation. “We have to be willing to meet that changed threat with additional counter-measures, and still find ways to keep our transportation systems the efficient and vital circulation system of our country. We must therefore judge our security options in a different light than we might have judged them in the past.”
Michael L Moodie, president of the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, testified in November before the Senate Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services about weapons of mass destruction that may be used by terrorists. He said that terrorists have relied on trucks in the past and probably will do so in future attacks. The key reason is that trucks are commonplace and no one notices where they are parked or where they are going.
Truck shipments of hazardous materials are among the concerns addressed by the Chemical Security Act of 2001, which was introduced in the Senate in late October and contains a controversial provision that would transfer regulatory authority for hazmat transportation from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill points out that terrorist and criminal attacks on chemical sources pose a serious threat to public health, safety, and welfare; critical infrastructure; national security; and the environment. The bill would seek to protect chemical facilities and shipments by reducing usage and storage of chemicals; employing inherently safer technologies in the manufacture, transport, and use of chemicals; enhancing secondary containment and other existing mitigation measures; and improving security.
Food shipments also are considered to be at risk, and legislation introduced in the House of Representatives is aimed at protecting those activities from terrorists. The Food Safety and Agricultural Terrorism Prevention and Response Act would bring producers, processors, trucking companies, and grocery companies together in a working group to help the Department of Agriculture safeguard food production and the food distribution system.
“Security is just as important for food shipments as it is for hazardous materials,” says Albert Y (Butch) Bingham, president of Bulkmatic Transport Company. “People need to be talking about this, and shippers need to get involved. A single trailerload of sweetener will make 600,000 cans of soft drink. A lot of people would be affected if just one shipment was targeted.”
The process of boosting security throughout the bulk logistics sector began within hours of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The effort gained importance after the FBI arrested a man who not only was alleged to have ties to Osama bin Laden but also possessed a valid commercial driver license (CDL) with a hazardous materials endorsement.
One result of that arrest is a provision in the anti-terrorism law, called the USA Patriot Act, that now requires extensive criminal background checks for anyone who applies for a CDL with a hazardous materials endorsement. Approximately 2.5 to 3 million truck drivers haul hazardous materials in the United States in some form and quantity.
Under the law, the states are to send the application materials to the Department of Justice, which is charged with conducting the background checks. DOJ then is to send the results of its checks to the DOT, which will make a final decision on whether applicants pose a security risk.
At press time, some enabling legislation was still being finalized. States were instructed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to continue issuing licenses with hazmat endorsements under their standard procedures.
The Teamsters have expressed a number of concerns about the law, contending that it is too broad. Teamster officials say the law provides truck drivers with no protection against random decisions denying them an opportunity to earn a living. The law doesn't define security risk, doesn't provide due process, and doesn't spell out who makes decisions and what happens when decisions are made.
In addition to dealing with the CDL issue, FMCSA launched a major effort to marshal security awareness throughout the commercial trucking industry. FMCSA staffers have been sent out across the country to discuss the agency's Safety & Security Awareness Program. It contains eight key topic areas.
Under the Safety & Security Planning section, carriers are encouraged to develop a formal plan. Existing plans should be reviewed and updated. Security implications need to be considered when any management decisions are made, and emergency contact information and networks must be clearly established.
Setting up a security plan also means deciding who will have the responsibility for its management and direction. At many tank truck carriers, the responsibility seems to be falling on the safety director. However, some fleets are creating a new position and hiring a security director.
Quality Distribution Inc wasted no time in naming Ray Chenault as its security director. Thomas L Finkbiner, Quality Distribution chief executive officer, made the appointment immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Chenault, previously safety director, was chosen because he was already familiar with the company and its procedures.
Security industry experts say that anyone appointed to a security manager position must receive training no matter how much experience they already have with their company. Without adequate training, a newly named security manager may have a difficult time developing the right strategy to safeguard against terrorist threats.
Carriers seeking experienced security managers may find them in short supply. In many cases, pay now ranges from $50,000 a year and up. Experts suggest that security consultants may provide a more cost-effective alternative.
Regardless of the person who manages the security process, rank and file employees will determine the effectiveness of any carrier's program. Employees must be encouraged to be vigilant. Any suspicious activities should be reported immediately to local law enforcement and emergency response agencies, according to FMCSA officials.
FMCSA also cautions that an employee might be a security risk, and this must be taken into account. Detailed background investigations must be a part of the hiring process. Special attention should be paid to suspicion indicators, such as unexplained employment breaks, unusual job shifts, citizenship documentation, multiple identities, and a criminal record.
Policies and procedures should be established to ensure that citizenship is confirmed prior to employment. A non-citizen applicant should be required to produce all immigration documents as proof of legal residence.
“Superior Bulk Logistics always had a comprehensive hiring program, so we haven't made many changes,” O'Donell says. “We already require a 10-year work history, and we check all references. The only real change is the immigration status, which wasn't as much of a factor in the past. In addition, we haven't begun the expanded criminal background checks called for in the USA Patriot Act.”
Tank truck carriers also are encouraged by FMCSA to implement adequate methods of identifying employees. These methods can include fingerprinting, company identification cards, or other credentials that include a photograph.
FMCSA isn't alone in calling for more extensive identification for people who have access to hazardous materials, foods, or other sensitive cargoes. Cathy Baker with the National Association of Chemical Distributors says the association's members are encouraged to require photo identification for anyone entering their facilities.
There has been little argument about the need for better identification for truck drivers and other personnel. However, companies in various parts of the bulk logistics sector have found it difficult to agree on the types of information that should be included on identification cards.
“Shippers want a lot of information on identification cards, including items that are clearly prohibited under privacy laws,” O'Donell says. “For instance, some want a driver's home address and his Social Security number. This information can't be released without a driver's authorization. When we point out the legal issues, most shippers back off.”
Carr says Quality Distribution has had similar experiences. “Some customers have wanted photocopies of CDLs for all of our drivers,” he says. “We've flatly refused to provide that documentation even in the face of threats to pull the business. These requests are kind of a knee-jerk reaction by shippers. Security is an extremely serious issue, but we have to take reasonable steps.”
FMCSA cautions that identify theft is a very real concern. While identification cards are a valuable security tool, it's important to avoid providing so much personal information that other security risks are created.
A control and custody process must be a part of any identification card program. Companies must have a system for dealing with the loss of credentials. They must be able to reclaim the card when a driver quits or retires. O'Donell suggests that control and custody may cost as much or more than the identification cards themselves.
Facility and equipment security procedures also must be established. This should start with a security self-assessment. Periodic routine security checks of facilities should be initiated.
Access control is a key concern. Many facilities — truck terminals, rail transfer facilities, tank container depots, wash racks, and tank repair shops — are fenced, but far too many lack any meaningful barrier to unauthorized access.
“There is no question that we need to do more to limit access to facilities,” Bingham says. “We want to make it as hard as possible for the bad guys to get in. We need more fences, and we may need more locked gates to limit access. We must have good lighting.
“Rail transfer facilities may be a challenge. It may not be possible to limit access to a single point of entry. At Bulkmatic, we're using guards and closed-circuit television at various transloading locations. However, I don't think closed-circuit television by itself can cover a 200-car yard. These are big facilities.”
Pouliot says a majority of Trimac's fleet terminals are fenced and that single points of entry are being established where possible. The carrier uses a combination of security guards and terminal personnel to monitor security at each location. Most of the company's rail transfer locations are manned 24 hours, and staffers can quickly spot anyone who doesn't belong at a facility.
Closed-circuit television is one of the technological devices that can be used to strengthen security at terminals, transloading yards, and other facilities. An array of high-tech devices can be used to monitor or secure every aspect of a facility, and they can be integrated into comprehensive security systems. However, these systems come at a cost, both in money and privacy.
FMCSA also is encouraging trucking companies to explore a variety of technologies to boost vehicle security. Many fleet executives fear that the DOT may renew its call for mandatory satellite tracking on all tractors.
Carriers certainly are showing renewed interest in satellite tracking. For instance, Propane Resources installed PeopleNet's wireless fleet tracking and communication system in all of its 30 owner-operator supplied tractors by the end of September.
“We were already planning to install the system, and we felt we showed our commitment to security by moving ahead with the project,” says Bias. “We selected the PeopleNet cellular-based system because we felt it was more user-friendly.”
Some carriers are upgrading their existing satellite tracking systems by adding a panic button option. Qualcomm officials say considerable interest has come from hazmat carriers. The panic button option costs $35 to $50 for retrofit.
When a driver triggers the panic alert, a computer screen in the control center is activated listing emergency contact information and procedures. Depending on arrangements with specific customers, Qualcomm personnel will even call the police.
Growing interest in satellite tracking is almost certain to bring other providers into the market. Among the companies taking a serious look at the trucking market is Earthtrackit, a satellite-tracking provider that has concentrated on the oil well drilling industry.
Rigs also can be protected with alarms, access control systems, and other tractor-mounted devices. For instance, MagTec Products Inc offers a device that will automatically shut down a tractor if someone other than the authorized driver tries to operate the vehicle. The MagTec system protects a tractor whether the engine is shut off or left idling, says Robert J Morisset, MagTec president.
Base Engineering also manufactures an electronic system designed to prevent tractor theft. The engine will stall if the parking brake is released before the driver's code number is keyed into the cab-mounted control unit.
Moving to the tank trailers, tank containers, and railcars, locks and cargo seals may be the most effective security devices. Cargo seals in particular were promoted at a special meeting in Chicago, Illinois, in late October of companies involved in the shipment of water treatment chemicals.
Companies participating in the meeting included shippers and carriers, and they agreed that cargo seals were especially important on the railcars used to transport water treatment products. These cars are particularly vulnerable to contamination-related terrorist attacks because they are frequently unattended and may spend weeks or months at a rail yard or transloading facility.
All openings on these railcars should be tagged with tamper-evident, numbered seals. Openings that wouldn't normally get a cargo seal should be permanently sealed.
Tank trailers used to haul these products are seen as less of a risk because they are in dedicated service, making regular round-trip loops. However, any tank trailer should be sealed if it will be unattended at any time. This is especially true for those transporting hazardous materials or foodgrade products. It goes for dry bulkers, as well as tanks.
If the experience at Quality Carriers is typical, many cargo tanks will need modification for all openings to be adequately sealed. Carr says a typical single-compartment stainless steel chemical trailer will need to be sealed in about 10 places. He adds that the seals should be provided by customers.
Brent Hanson, Civacon transportation product manager, pointed out that cargo seals are just the beginning of what can be done to secure a tank trailer. For instance, Civacon has modified its dry bulk domelid products by adding security wires and padlocks. Swing check valves can be fitted with security wires.
Lockable dust caps are now available for bottom-loading adapters and vapor vents. Petroleum manlids have been modified with sealed clamp rings and lockable pressure vents. Civacon also offers the Parcel Sealed Delivery System, which was developed in Europe to electronically monitor and record activity for each compartment on a petroleum transport.
Various products are designed to prevent unattended trailers from being stolen from a truck terminal or other location. Kingpin locks, landing gear locks, and other devices should be considered an essential part of any trailer security program, according to John Albrecht, president of Transport Security Inc. He says tank truck fleets are showing particular interest in his company's landing gear lock, called The Enforcer.
Terrorism concerns are certain to bring to market any number of offbeat security devices. California Governor Gray Davis is touting one such product. Developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, the device is designed to enable a police car to stop a hijacked rig by ramming the rear end of the trailer.
A device mounted to the rear bumper of the vehicle has a sharp blade that cuts a rubber air hose, releasing air from the air brakes, which causes the emergency brake to activate. The initial design requires an impact to activate the system, but research is underway to enable remote control activation.
“Rube Goldberg is alive and well,” says National Tank Truck Carriers Vice-President John Conley in discussing the system. “We'll see a lot more of these goofy things coming out in the months ahead. Fortunately, we have a regulatory process that should weed out the craziest ideas.”
Fleet executives generally agree that the greatest security risks are encountered out on the road, not at the terminal. FMCSA agrees with that assessment, cautioning in its Safety & Security Awareness Program that carriers should take a number of steps to minimize risk.
This includes establishing routes that avoid centers of high population or congestion whenever possible. Procedures are needed to ensure that vehicle and cargo are properly secured anytime the rig is stopped. The procedures should be reinforced through driver meetings and training.
At Trimac, dispatchers are trying to maintain closer contact with drivers. In addition, managers believe Trimac's control branch form of dispatch provides better security because each dispatcher works with a smaller number of drivers. “A dispatcher in our system is more likely to recognize a driver's voice,” Pouliot says.
Trimac now provides more information to customers when shipments are delayed. Under new emergency procedures, customers are given more detail on the trailer and tractor. In addition to license plate numbers, dispatchers provide a description of the tractor, including paint scheme, make, and model.
Carr agrees with the need for better communication because drivers are facing a higher level of risk. While no credible threats have been made against the tank truck industry, he says that unknown individuals shot at three Quality Carrier rigs in the weeks following September 11. Bullets from high-powered rifles hit two of the tank trailers, but no leaks resulted. The drivers were not injured.
Fleet managers generally agree that a rig is most vulnerable when parked at a rest area or truck stop. In fact, Bulkmatic Transport has instructed its drivers to spend as little time as possible in truck stops.
“We think our trucks are just too exposed,” Bingham says. “We're trying to fuel and stop for rest only at our own terminals. Overall, I don't believe security out on the road is much better today than it was before September 11.”
Besides varying routes when possible, more carriers are sending rigs out in groups. Tractors are locked whenever parked, and many fleets now prohibit unattended idling. “We could face some of our greatest risks this winter when many drivers are accustomed to letting their trucks idle in cold weather,” Carr says.
The general view throughout the bulk logistics sector is that major security weaknesses still exist, and shipments of hazardous materials and foodgrade products are still at risk. However, companies are concerned about security, and action is being taken.
Big questions still await answers, though: How much aggravation will drivers endure? Can the industry afford to make the security upgrades that are required? Where will the money come from?
Addressing the driver issue, O'Donell says the soft economy has muted much of the potential protest over work difficulties stemming from increased security. However, concern about tankers as terrorist targets could deter some drivers from applying for jobs with tank truck carriers. That problem won't become apparent until the economy picks up, though.
Other fleet managers say drivers have expressed aggravation with the way tractors are being searched on arrival at chemical plants. They relate stories of inept searches by National Guard soldiers, and muddy boot prints left on sleeper bunks.
Turning to the cost questions, Cliff Harvison, president of National Tank Truck Carriers, says shippers realize that new security requirements will raise the cost of transportation. That cost will have to be passed along.
Fleet managers say they are getting a different message. Rates continue to be driven down. Many say they are seeing nothing close to the sort of cost-based pricing that will be needed to pay for better security.
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