Federal security program trains truckers

After the first two years of a three-year program, 18,100 truckers have completed training in a federally funded trucking security program known as First Observer.

In August 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded a $15.5 million grant to HMS Co. of Washington, D.C., to administer an anti-terrorism and security awareness program for highway professionals.

The program’s First Observer component is to recruit and train industry volunteers to report suspicious activities that might be criminal or linked to terrorism to authorities. It has partnered with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters union.

Total Security Services International, a professional security company and Patton Boggs, a law firm, both headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area, also are partners.

First Observer’s training modules are also targeted to workers in law enforcement, cargo and supply chain, infrastructure, hazmat, highway, ports and truck rental and leasing.

The program is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered through the Transportation Security Administration; both are part of Homeland Security, said Dwayne Baird, a TSA spokesman.

It has 57,000 members and 90 industry affiliates and supporters, according to FEMA. The latter includes motor coach associations, emergency preparedness personnel, truck driver training organizations, parking associations and airport ground personnel.

The program operates a 24/7 Call Center, which gathers information and transfers it to the Information Sharing and Analysis Center for investigation.

In 2006, the DHS trucking security grant was more than $4.8 million and in 2007, greater than $11.6 million.
In 1998, the American Trucking Associations established the Highway Watch program to train transportation workers to safeguard U.S. roadways and communities, for which it received U.S. Department of Transportation funding.

In 2003, the TSA began funding an expanded Highway Watch. The ATA trademarked the term Highway Watch and the congressional grant authorization referred specifically to the Highway Watch program, so the TSA awarded the association $63 million for the program from 2003-2007.

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