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September 5, 2011 1:30 AM, EDT

9/11 Leaves a Legacy of Regulation, Tight Security for Freight Transport

By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the Sept. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

In the 10 years since terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the nation has rebuilt and moved on, but with a greater emphasis on security of all kinds, including for ground-based freight transportation.

The attacks led to a much larger federal regulatory presence in freight transportation, spawning an array of truck-tracking programs and identification requirements for freight and for drivers.

Drivers are trained to be more aware of their surroundings — all the time — and they must complete background checks that include fingerprint scrutiny. Border crossings now are thick with technology.

“Nine/11 has made everyone more aware — the government, the public and industry — they all recognize the importance of the supply chain, especially the interdependence among modes,” said Martin Rojas, American Trucking Associations’ vice president for security and operations.

Because of 9/11, “We got a new set of players in the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security,” said Randal Mullett, a Con-way Inc. vice president for government relations and public affairs.

“For the transportation of hazardous materials, cross-border operations and driver credentialing. it added new regulatory schemes and added costs,” Mullett said.

Border crossings into the United States were closed for days, and that came at great cost to the automobile industry, Rojas said. Beyond the well-known Michigan-Ontario traffic, auto parts also come from Mexico to Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee.

“Shutting down the ports of entry shuts down the entire automotive industry. There’s sourcing throughout North America. Closing the border is bad for the companies and their employees,” Rojas said.

In reaction to the quadruple airline hijacking that resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the federal government grew larger. Two months afterward, Congress created the Transportation Security Administration, placing it briefly in the Department of Transportation and then in the new Department of Homeland Security.

In March 2003, DHS was launched, created from 22 federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The massive new department was supposed to allow for better management so that an attack would not happen again.

“They were supposed to work toward coordination, but we continue to see the same historic stovepipes within DHS,” Rojas said. “I don’t know if this is clearer; it might just be another layer of bureaucracy.

“I don’t think the goal has been achieved. It’s tough to combine and merge a lot of these agencies,” said Rojas.

“There were a whole lot of onerous suggestions at the time, including cradle-to-grave tracking of every cargo and freight shipment, but many of these suggestions did not come to pass, in part because of efforts by ATA and others,” Mullett said.

Mullet noted that the first two TSA administrators, John Magaw and James Loy, did not have backgrounds in surface freight transportation.

“They saw things through a different lens and didn’t really know what was going on with trucking. There were lots of scary proposals. The adoption of equipment-tracking was probably accelerated because of 9/11.”

Mullett said regulation of hazardous materials transportation also accelerated, although those changes probably were coming along anyway.

John Conley, president of National Tank Truck Carriers, said there were some initial overreactions that do not bother him now, given the extraordinary events of the day. “Right afterward, if you had a placard on your truck, you’d get pulled over a lot,” said Conley, who was then NTTC’s vice president. Ten years later, though, Conley said he is disappointed that the executive branch has not solved the issue of driver credentialing.

“You still need multiple credentials of separate fingerprint-based IDs,” Conley said, adding that the hazardous materials endorsement on a commercial driver license has changed from “a knowledge test on how to operate safely to a character test, and that is an unfortunate development.”

TWIC, the transportation worker identification credential, initially was intended for use by ports under Coast Guard control. Conley said that should be transformed into a single, national standard ID, with the hazmat endorsement used for certifying the ability to transport dangerous materials.

However, Conley said, TWIC is not universally recognized within the country, and the hazmat endorsement is doing double-duty for mere identification.

The definition of a hazardous material also should be adjusted, Conley said. Commodities such as hair spray or paint, while not healthful if ingested, should be considered different from gasoline or chlorine, he argued.

After nearly 30 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Downey moved into trucking security shortly after 9/11, when he was recruited as chief security officer of Kenan Advantage Group. The North Canton, Ohio, company is a major petroleum hauler. “Because of what we haul, we’ve always had a strong safety culture, and security is really a part of that. We had to implement more comprehensive driver awareness, so they understand the importance of looking to see if someone is watching them and become more aware of that.”

Downey said he also has to deal with security demands at his customers’ facilities, refineries and petroleum racks.

“Our customers’ access policies are much more stringent now,” said Downey, chairman of ATA’s Homeland Security Policy Committee. He works with FBI and TSA outreach programs and said sharing information is critical, and part of his job is to instruct law enforcement as to how trucking works.

For Con-way’s Mullet, the biggest change from 9/11 is his job. “Prior to 9/11, Con-way didn’t have a government affairs person in Washington. But the board of directors was worried about overreaction by government, and I got there the next year, in 2002. We had to explain our business model to the federal government.”