WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced a $19.3 million cooperative agreement with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) to expand ATA's Highway Watch program, which trains highway professionals to identify and report safety and security situations on our Nation's roads.
The program will provide training and communications infrastructure to prepare 400,000 transportation professionals to respond in the event they or their cargo are the target of a terrorist attack and to share valuable intelligence with TSA if they witness potential threats. The intelligence will allow federal agencies and industry stakeholders to quickly move to prevent an attack or to immediately respond if an attack occurs.
In awarding the grant, TSA Acting Administrator David M. Stone said, "Every American has a role in defending the homeland from the threat of terror. America's professional drivers and the stewards of our highway resources need to be prepared in the event they are the target of an attack. These hard working men and women are also perfectly positioned to serve as our eyes and ears on the busiest mode of transportation in the nation."
"We are honored to be on duty for America," said Bill Graves, ATA President and CEO. "It makes sense to have a plan that coordinates the efforts of the entire transportation sector to keep our highways safe and secure--and to keep rolling. Otherwise, given the country's dependence on transportation, America stops."
Commercial truck and bus drivers, school bus drivers, highway maintenance crews, bridge and tunnel toll collectors and others will receive instruction under the Highway Watch Grant. The program's primary goal is to prevent attacks by teaching highway professionals to avoid becoming a target for terrorists who would use large vehicles or hazardous cargoes as a weapon. A secondary goal is to train highway professionals to recognize and report suspicious activity.
The Highway Watch program will link these well-trained transportation professionals with first responders, law enforcement and the intelligence community via TSA's Transportation Security Coordination Center (TSCC) in Herndon, Va. For example, a truck driver in North Carolina who witnesses a suspicious event can call the National Highway Watch Call Center which will in turn immediately alert the TSCC. The TSCC will then integrate this information with other data received from around the country as well as up-to-the-minute intelligence from around the world. Subsequently, this data will be analyzed and local first responders and law enforcement in appropriate areas will be alerted in a timely manner.
The potential of this network was on display on October 24, 2002, when Ron Lantz, a Kentucky truck driver, alerted local law enforcement to the Washington, D.C.-area snipers' car. The trucker knew what to look for from an alert that went out over radio with a description of the car and license plate.