Sunday, June 09, 2002

Truckers keep eyes on road looking out for terrorists

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The state is enlisting truck drivers as anti-terrorism agents.

        State, federal and trucking industry officials said they're participating in a new program to train drivers to watch for terrorist activity and let police know about accidents and erratic driving.

        Twenty-one Ohio drivers and trucking company officials completed a two-hour Highway Watch training course conducted by state troopers last week.

        Ohio is the ninth state to have the program. William Canary, president of the American Trucking Association, said his organization wants to take the program nationwide.

        “We're asking our 3 million truck drivers to keep an eye on the roads,” he said. “We're giving the president 3 million more troops.”

        Fifteen Ohio Highway Patrol sergeants train truckers who are based in or travel through the state. The effort is funded by an initial $100,000 federal grant.

        Trucker Tom Michael of Akron said he has followed the Highway Watch program's rules throughout his 24-year career. The training he completed last week added a national-security aspect.

        “I think it's a great program,” he said. “It can do nothing but make the roads a safer place to travel.” He said the program “has alerted drivers who haul hazardous waste to be more aware” of the possibility of truck hijackings.

        ATA spokesman John Willard said drivers are trained to look for suspicious activity or trucks that have been hijacked or are vulnerable to hijacking. Trucks and trailers parked in remote areas or under bridges are cause for suspicion, he said.


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