You’re In The Army Now

If international security expert Jeffrey Beatty has his way, you may join the Army. The American Trucking Army, that is. As part of an anti-terrorism plan developed for the American Trucking Associations, Beatty wants to train America’s 3 million commercial truck drivers to recognize and report suspicious activity. He calls the program T.R.U.C.K. to remind truckers of what to note and to do if they see a potential problem:

T – Time of observation
R – Route or location
U – Unusual activity
C – Communicate with law enforcement
K – Keep under observation

ATA President Bill Canary says T.R.U.C.K. could be an expansion of ATA’s Highway Watch program, which trains professional truck drivers to recognize and report accidents and other road hazards. “Why not ask our drivers to keep an eye on bridges, tunnels and other vital infrastructure as they drive their routes?” he asked attendees at the Truckload Carriers Association meeting in Las Vegas in March. “We’d be proud to do it.”

This program’s potential for fostering pride in our country and our industry may be almost as important as its primary goal of improving national security. Imagine legions of truckers keeping the shelves stocked while serving as our nation’s eyes and ears on the highway. The same keen observation skills you use to stay safe on the road would serve our country well.

Imagine, too, the image-enhancing potential of truckers playing a critical role in keeping our nation safe. The words American Trucking Army could eventually evoke the same positive feelings as Knights of the Highway did in years gone by.

While such a program has tremendous positive potential, it also raises some concerns. Encouraging an industry already worried about hazmat-endorsed terrorists to take an active role in national security could fan the flames of paranoia. Will we begin to see Osama Bin Laden behind every fuel pump? Will every case of road rage become a terrorist act?

There are also many questions about exactly how the program would work. How would truckers get involved? What type of training would be required? How would the potentially overwhelming number of tips be handled?

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Despite such questions and concerns, the patriotism this industry demonstrated in the wake of Sept. 11 leaves little doubt: If Uncle Sam points at the trucking industry and says “We want you,” America’s truck drivers will respond.