Hauling Cans

| April 07, 2005

Many intermodal operations are like Jim and Athena Shannon’s – a one-truck shop. In fact, more than half of Morgan Southern’s drivers are owner-operators. They may have been long-haul truckers in the past, but more and more are moving to intermodal for the convenience and flexibility.

“We thought we’d get bored doing the same things every week, but we’ve been everywhere at least twice already,” Shannon says. “Now we know when we’re going to be home and can anticipate getting there. We can even call Sunday our own. Nope – we don’t miss over-the-road.”

Got your ID?
Port security tightens slightly, but there’s more to come

When trucker Jim Shannon pulled up to the Port of Oakland, Calif., in November, he pulled out his new security card, which was issued last year, to enter the sprawling complex. The guard also checked his photo identification, a new step some ports have added in the war against terrorism.

“We’re seeing a little bit more security than we used to,” he says.

Port security has been criticized by terrorism experts as lax in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Critics charge that it would be easy for terrorists to smuggle biological, chemical or nuclear weapons into the country. In response, ports have stepped up security and now inspect more containers at the docks.

On the East Coast, some efforts to check backgrounds and issue ID cards have met with resistance. A plan in Florida, for instance, to issue separate ID cards for every port raised the ire of trucking companies, afraid the fees and complexity would force them to do business with just one port.

Currently, a plan for a transportation worker ID card is in the works at the new Transportation Security Administration. Once finalized, the card should cut through some of the red tape. Transportation workers at the Port of Long Beach and airports in Los Angeles and Philadelphia are using the IDs as part of a pilot program. The program will probably include background checks for all transportation workers with access to sensitive areas, experts say.

The Intermodal Association of North America’s Tom Malloy says the security issue is a large onion to slice. “There’s a lot of concerns about what’s coming into the country, because once it’s here, it’s in the system,” he says.

In late November, the Department of Transportation and U.S. Customs Service launched a program called Operation Safe Commerce to fund business initiatives for enhancing security for container cargo.

The agencies will use the program to identify vulnerabilities in the supply chain and to improve methods for ensuring the security of cargo entering and leaving the United States. Techniques that prove successful will be recommended for implementation.

Congress, through the 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act, provided $28 million for the program.

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