NORDIC / SECURITY / INFRASTRUCTURE 2009 - Will DHS be emphasizing surface transportation security?

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Industry says better, not more, is what is needed.By Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOTMight the new leadership in the Department of Homeland Security emphasize progress in ground transportation security over aviation and maritime? Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano appeared to suggest that when she testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee during her confirmation hearing in January.
“In my view from a prevention and protection standpoint, not just aviation, but surface transportation is a work in progress,” Napolitano said. “We haven’t done as much there as we have done on the aviation side.
“Let’s go where the gaps are,” she added.
It is understandable that DHS should have first tackled aviation security, given the events of September 11, 2001, and the fact that, when it comes to passenger transportation, hundreds of lives may be at stake, said Matthew Howe, director public policy Border Trade Alliance. Maritime transportation, he also acknowledged, represents much more economic value on a single vessel than on any given truck that may cross the border.
“There is a different kind of security concern when human life is involved,” said Howe. “Across the border, security involves more preventing the smuggling of drugs and arms and making sure that what is coming in is what is supposed to be coming in.”
While DHS may indeed have emphasized aviation and maritime security over surface transportation, industry sources tell the AJOT that what is needed from DHS is better, and not more, surface transportation security programs.
From a trucking perspective, much of what the federal government has implemented is duplicative and burdensome, according to Martin Rojas, executive director for safety, security and operations at the American Trucking Associations. “Our view is that there are already a number of programs that impact the trucking side that are not applicable to other transportation systems,” he said.
A case in point is the multiple background checks truck drivers must undergo in order to haul certain kinds of loads or to enter specific kind of locations. “They check the same database multiple times to get a hazardous materials endorsement and for a TWIC [Transportation Worker Identity Card] to enter a port. There is a different check applicable to the FAST part of the C-TPAT [Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism] program, another to go into a Department of Defense facility, and another enter an airport.
“One of our issues is that there needs to be some streamlining and consolidating of all this background checking,” Rojas added. “They are all checking the same database. In our view the TWIC should function as a single credential.”
Another of ATA’s pet peeves is the multiple training requirements for the different security programs. Carrying hazmats require specialized training, Rojas noted, while C-TPAT has a separate training requirements. Rojas’ view is that one set of training, as long as it complies with program requirements, should enable drivers to qualify under multiple programs.
Many carriers have found C-TPAT burdensome, according to Howe, leading them to question whether the benefits of the program, expedited border crossings and fewer cargo inspections, outweigh the costs of compliance. “If truck crossings are too onerous, shippers will start moving cargo by other modes of transportation,” he said. “Because of infrastructure challenges, many carriers have not seen as great a benefit as they would have hoped and enrolment in C-TPAT has been lower than DHS would have liked.”
Already cross-border delays have impacted the auto industry on the U.S. and Canadian side of the northern border, Howe noted. “The auto industry,” he said, “has moved from a just-in-time business model,” in which precise deliveries of frequent smaller shipment allow companies to reduce inventory, “to just-in- case,” in which companies keep sufficient stock on hand to cover unforeseen contingencies.
“I’m not saying physi

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American Journal of Transportation

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.