Truckers Recruited in War on Terror
Hoping to take advantage of alert eyes along the nation’s highways, the government is trying to enlist more truckers in the battle against terrorism. The Alexandria, Virginia-based Highway Watch, started by the American Trucking Associations in 1998 and funded since 2002 with homeland security money, focuses on safety and security. Spokesman John Willard said the volunteer program has received a total of about $40 million and “all 50 states have active programs.” He said Highway Watch continues to seek trained members. “Truck driver normally runs the same route every day. He is used to his surroundings,” said Dave Huneryager, president of the Tennessee Trucking Association. “Something may jump out at him.” Longtime trucker Ernie Sherrill agrees: “You see a lot of things.”
Besides looking out for potential threats, such as a tanker truck parked for an extended period near a bridge or overpass, volunteers are trained to “avoid becoming a target of terrorists.” “The Highway Watch effort seeks to prevent terrorists from using large vehicles or hazardous cargoes as weapons,” according to a program statement. Training for membership takes about an hour, said Stephanie Fouts, Highway Watch program manager. She said each of the “tens of thousands” of members is assigned an identification number to use when making a report to the around-the-clock operation.
While my first reaction was to try to come up with a clever “B.J. and the Bear” reference, this actually makes sense. Unlike the infamous T.I.P.S. program, this doesn’t sound like a program to encourage citizens to spy on one another but simply asking people to be alert and giving them some training on how to report something suspicious. As we’ve seen time and again, trucks are excellent platforms for improvised explosive devices. Presumably, people who drive trucks for a living would be able to more easily recognize “unusual” behavior than, say, a highway patrol officer.