FMCSA reports on technologies for securing hazmat trucks
Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM
Editor's note: The following are excerpts taken from a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) commissioned study on immobilization technologies. The November 2007 report is posted online at
Editor's note: The following are excerpts taken from a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) commissioned study on immobilization technologies. The November 2007 report is posted online at fmcsa.dot.gov.
A Study on vehicle immobilization technologies (VIT), conducted by a subcontractor for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), shows that the trucking industry, as a whole, favors an approach that focuses on theft prevention before a vehicle is underway and views vehicle shutdown technologies as a last resort.
Conclusions from the study suggest that VITs are currently being used by early adopters in the trucking industry for the security of high-value goods and for the protection of drivers against theft and hijacking. Driver Authentication Technologies were shown to be the first and most important line of defense to improve security and are being deployed rapidly.
In terms of best practices, several items were clearly shown to be key elements of an effective system to improve security, including prioritization of security-related messages from wireless communications systems, company protocols involving law enforcement in a vehicle shutdown, and smart vehicle immobilization technology that can act in accordance with surrounding conditions.
The study focused on four different hazmat truck transportation scenarios representing bulk petroleum and chemical products, less-than-truckload (LTL), and truckload explosives.
VITs are classified into two main categories, Vehicle Disabling Technologies (VDTs) and Vehicle Shutdown Technologies (VSTs), depending on the kinematic status of the vehicle at the time the immobilization process starts. VDTs are immobilization technologies that impede restarting a vehicle. They can be activated when the vehicle is moving or stationary, but the VDT will only immobilize the vehicle the next time an attempt is made to start it.
VSTs, on the other hand, are technologies that cause a vehicle to lose power while it is moving and will cause it to eventually come to a stop, as well as impede the restarting of the vehicle after the technology has been triggered.
While there are VIT systems that are composed only of a VDT, those that have vehicle shutdown capabilities always have vehicle disabling capabilities as well.
The FMCSA study came in an effort to strengthen security for hazardous materials after several incidents involving tank trucks raised concerns. Some of the incidents included a driver for a US propane distributor who drove away with a 3,000- gallon bobtail and made a telephone threat against President Bush; a terrorist driving a truck carrying liquefied natural gas ignited the cargo in front of a synagogue on the Tunisian Island of Djerba, killing 17 people; and a fully loaded tanker truck pulled into Israel's largest fuel depot and suddenly caught fire due to an explosive charge connected to a cellular phone.
The FMCSA study determined that currently available driver authentication technologies for commercial vehicle operations include swipe cards, proximity cards, and keypads; no biometrics technology was being used by the VIT vendors identified in the study. Keypads or combinations of swipe/proximity cards with keypads are the most secure driver authentication technology types, the report concluded.
Some of the vehicle shutdown technologies use a multiple step approach that implements decreasing speed thresholds triggered at constant intervals during the vehicle shutdown process, with a longer interval once the vehicle has reached a very low speed (usually 10 mph). Other engine degradation technologies use just a single or a two-step process by which the vehicle is rapidly decelerated while maintaining all the mechanical functions available to the driver.
As for VIT's fixed and periodic costs, the research demonstrated that there is a wide variation of VIT capabilities and, in consequence, prices among the vendors.
The price of the unit varies between $100 and $1,700, with an average of $535. The monthly fees are in the $25-to-$85 range, with an average of $45. Identified benefits by companies using VITs include risk exposure reduction, theft avoidance, insurance premium reduction, and increased driver and cargo safety. Other spillover benefits resulting from the deployment of a VIT system include better fleet management by using its driver and vehicle tracking capabilities.
VIT “best practices” and issues were identified in this project and further discussed in different forums in an attempt to capture the perspectives of the main VIT stakeholders. Among those VIT “best practices,” it was determined that law enforcement should be involved in vehicle shutdown events in which a crime has been committed. Furthermore, the technology should be easy to use by law enforcement and allow for easy identification of the vehicle under distress in the stream of traffic.
Other “best practices” included robust driver authentication systems, adaptive VITs, technologies that degrade the vehicle performance, technologies that permit quick recovery after shutdown, technologies that arm themselves with no human intervention, and alarm queuing.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.