- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

Truckers, famous for their grit and for playing cat-and-mouse with the police, are displaying unusual patience these days.
Most truck drivers now wait calmly while authorities double-check their credentials and inspect their rigs for anything that looks out of place or risky, especially if they're hauling explosive or potentially deadly loads.
The reason? Truck drivers, especially carriers of hazardous materials, or "hazmat," know how easy it would be to plant weapons or time bombs on their trucks and so do the companies they work for.
"I'm worried they might put something explosive on my truck," owner-operator Carlos Corzo said, adding that he didn't mind a lengthy inspection at the Maryland State Police truck scales on Interstate 270.
He'd been waved over while hauling hot asphalt from Frederick to Rockville.
Truckers were as shaken as everyone else when more than 5,000 died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A recent FBI alert based on threats of new attacks this weekend prompted truckers to see troopers as allies in an effort to keep the economy moving and the people safe.
Police inspection teams from several jurisdictions have a large area to cover. Trucks can be 50 miles from the District and still be a few hundred yards from a potential terrorist target, police said. Federal grants pay for the extended police coverage.
"We're between Camp David and Washington, D.C.," said Maryland State Police Sgt. Francis Friedel at the scale house near Hyattstown, where Mr. Corzo's truck got a thorough once-over.
Security on I-270's "technology corridor" is just as intense as on roads leading to chemical and petroleum facilities in Baltimore, Northern Virginia and points south. Virginia State Police added security at the Hampton Roads area tunnels. Twelve-hour shifts have become common, state police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said.
Last week, trucking companies asked Congress to give them access to national crime-information databases so they could thoroughly check the backgrounds of drivers and other employees.
"The possibility of a truck being used as a weapon of mass destruction, while unthinkable before, is now a reality," American Trucking Associations Chairman Duane Acklie told a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee Wednesday.
Trucker Robert Schmuhl of Kingman, Ariz., agreed. Timothy McVeigh spent a week layover in Kingman with a rental truck full of fertilizer en route to blowing up an Oklahoma City federal building on April 19, 1995.
"We all know something's going to happen no doubt about that," said Mr. Schmuhl, who was hauling radioactive material from Delta, Pa. He had just gone through a lengthy inspection at the West Friendship scales off I-70 in Howard County.
He locks the doors of his truck now a precaution he used to skip even when napping in the sleeper cab.
The demand for qualified hazmat carriers is so high, Mr. Schmuhl said, that he is weary of being called upon to drop harmless loads and pick up hazardous ones.
Truckers are advised not to stop except for emergencies. The idea is to avoid setups such as sham accidents that might make them vulnerable. Truckers also are advised not to pick up hitchhikers or talk about their cargos on CB radios.
Still, Armando Delgado of Gaithersburg said he is comfortable with his 13-year job of hauling gasoline. He is, however, taking extra care to watch out for anything unusual and to remove the keys and lock the cab whenever not in his truck.
Mr. Delgado said fuel depots are taking more precautions, too. For instance, drivers are now required to show extra identification before they pick up loads.
"It takes extra time, but most don't mind," Mr. Delgado said.
Trucking companies share that sentiment, American Trucking Associations spokesman Mike Russell said.
"This is a time-is-money business and obviously there's an expense when it comes to putting on more security," Mr. Russell said. "But it's for all the right reasons."


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