Lasting legacy | 9/11 special report

Todd Dills and Max Kvidera | September 06, 2011

One group impacted by the 9/11 aftermath is haulers of air freight, Fountain says. “You look at the screening, the control over drivers selected to move that freight and the training and background checks they’re required to have — clearly that has been driven a lot by 9/11 and the concern over terrorism in our country and targeting of air cargo and passenger systems.” Spencer adds that one OOIDA member says he has taken specialized training to handle air freight authorized by the Department of Homeland Security.

Dick McCorkle, hauling for trade shows around the country, saw his prime hauls dry up post-9/11. “The show business has only started to really return for me now, 10 years later,” he says.

Operational problems since 9/11 have come into play as cities around the country require trucks take bypass routes around their towns, adding costs for carriers and drivers in miles. From New York City itself to the 75-mile diversion around the Hoover Dam before the truck bypass bridge was finished just last year, mandatory truck diversions likely contributed to the shifting pay landscape late in the decade as carriers competed more fiercely for drivers, offering practical-miles pay packages to more accurately reflect actual miles driven.

Security changes

Tractor-trailers have been used as instruments of terror in other countries. In the United States, box trucks packed with explosives were used in the 1990s Oklahoma City bombing as well as the World Trade Center bombing.

Asked about how 9/11 changed trucking, Jay Thompson, president of Transportation Business Associates and longtime trucking industry participant, recalls the lone instance of use of a tractor-trailer as a weapon of attempted mass slaughter, when a “refrigerated truck was rammed into a California government office in January 2001. That has been the only deal where a commercial truck was used as a tool of mass destruction, although only the driver was killed.”

“Truckers are looked at with hard scrutiny,” Philmon says. “It changed from that day forward. You’re not as free as you were out here prior to 9/11.”

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential emerged from the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 that was started in 2007 and fully implemented in 2009. It aims to identify persons such as truckers who require access to maritime facilities, such as ports. The program requires a background check and tamper-proof identification card that includes the holder’s fingerprints.

The program has its critics. A Government Accountability Office report claimed the program had poor internal controls and oversight during a 2007-10 examination. A TSA official says the GAO “found that these weaknesses could have contributed to the breach of facilities that occurred during GAO’s covert testing.”

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential emerged post-9/11, requiring background checks and a special ID for truckers needing access to ports around the nation. Criticism of the program has come down mostly to questions of its efficacy, considering many truckers have already undergone the scrutiny the TWIC puts them under via carrier background checks.

From the cardholder’s standpoint, the proliferation of security programs by individual ports, shippers and other organizations requiring background checks, fingerprints and photo ID is redundant and “fraught with waste and expense for drivers,” Spencer says. “Congress has yet to mandate a system of background checks for drivers that makes sense.”

For example, hazardous materials haulers have faced increased post-9/11 scrutiny, according to John Conley, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers. “Prior to 9/11, hazmat [licensing] was a knowledge test,” he says. “All of a sudden the hazmat knowledge test became a character test. Now you have to supply the same information more than once if you want a TWIC to go into certain areas. It’s increased the hassle factor.”

Getting trucks, drivers and freight into the country for companies in our border nations north and south — and getting drivers back into the country from the north — has been impacted by the heightened sense of security. “The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism,” an effort by the United States and international partner companies and nations to further secure the supply chain from terrorist infiltration, “came about from a total tightening of the border post-9/11,” Thompson says. As incoming traffic slowed dramatically due to checks by agents of multiple agencies, from “Customs and Border Protection to the DOT to even USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency,” he adds, the C-TPAT was launched and promoted as a way for the shipping and carrier communities to achieve quicker access to the U.S. interior by undergoing verification and inspection procedures all along every point of their supply chain by U.S. agents.

That program, too, says Thompson, has come under criticism as an initiative that has realized little of its potential. “The vast majority of freight across the border is not C-TPAT freight,” Thompson says.

Another program that emerged after 9/11 was the Highway Watch initiative to encourage truckers and others to report on-road suspicious activity. Last year, the program was replaced by the First Observer program, with a new manager. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.