- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

State police and federal inspectors across the country are pulling over and inspecting thousands of trucks carrying hazardous cargo amid concerns that the big rigs could be used by terrorists.
Government officials and industry representatives have not received any indication of any specific terrorist threat involving hazardous-materials shipments, but the potential for havoc is clear, they say.
A typical gasoline tanker truck carries as much fuel as did each of the jets that were flown into the World Trade Center. Sulfur trioxide, used to make soap, turns into sulfuric acid when exposed to the air or water and can cause severe lung damage.
The heightened alert was triggered by disclosure that FBI agents investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had found that a number of Middle Eastern men had obtained fraudulent licenses to transport hazardous material.
Eighteen men had obtained such permits illegally from a state examiner in Pennsylvania. The FBI said Wednesday that none of those men is believed linked to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In Virginia, officials have been scrambling to correct security lapses in the state's licensing process exposed by the post-attack investigations.
The hijackers got Virginia driver's licenses and identification cards by presenting notarized residency forms co-signed by a man they bribed outside the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office in Arlington, according to investigators.
Officials said this week they had been evaluating ways to halt driver's license fraud in the state months before the hijackers obtained licenses and identification cards in the state.
"For a long time, the agency has been conducting an ongoing and extensive review of our list of acceptable documents proving residency," said Pam Goheen, a spokeswoman for the state agency.
"It's well known that it's fairly easy to falsely obtain identification in Virginia. College kids know that, and terrorists would, too," said Steve Vaughn, a spokesman for Donald McEachin, Democratic candidate for attorney general.
Officials say they're fixing the problem.
"Last week, we stopped accepting the Identity Affidavit (DL6) and the Residency Certification (DL51) after evaluating a case in Arlington, long before Sept. 11," said Mrs. Goheen.
Officials in Virginia and in other states are also rechecking databases on hazardous-materials drivers licenses, looking for names that match FBI watch lists or other red flags.
"You never know what you're going to find," said David Longo, a spokesman for the Transportation Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Cheron Wicker, spokeswoman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, said every state has strict requirements for drivers who apply for licenses to operate the big rigs and handle hazardous cargo, but, she cautions: "We cannot guarantee anyone's intent when we distribute licenses."
The District is less affected by hazardous-materials trucks, because there are no oil and gas refineries in the city, and few if any waste-disposal sites, said officials.
"The most dangerous materials that come through the city are methanol for Washington Gas, acids and corrosive cleaners for the water and sewer authority, and most dangerous, liquid oxygen delivered to hospitals," said Sgt. James Schaefer for the Metropolitan Police Department's motor carriers division.
Virginia, Maryland and D.C. police have informed all of their inspectors to be more cognizant of false identification.
"But there is no check in any area that can stop a truck from being hijacked," Mrs. Goheen said.
Paul Bomgardner, director of hazardous-materials transportation at the American Trucking Associations, said it is virtually impossible to check every truck. "If you tried to stop every truck, you'd have backups for miles," said Mr. Bomgardner, who once worked as a state truck-safety inspector in Maryland.
Chemical- and fuel-hauling companies are scrambling to make checks of their own, secure their fleets and review their rosters of drivers, according to industry officials.
Some companies are requiring two drivers on trucks hauling the most dangerous materials, limiting or banning stops en route, and telling drivers not to leave trucks unattended, according to an industry official.

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