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Chemical and fuel laden trucks are weapon of choice for terrorists and have been used in three terrorist attacks worldwide this year alone; law enforcement officials fear they will be used in the United States

Over 2,000 shipments of hazardous materials enter and leave New York City by trucks each day

Schumer's new plan to protect New York City includes federal backgroun

Schumer's new plan to protect New York City includes federal background checks for truck drivers, mandated tracking technology in trucks, and a database to monitor hazardous materials traveling along our highways

US Senator Chuck Schumer today warned that unsecured trucks going in and out of New York City pose a major terrorist threat and left unaddressed leave New York vulnerable to significant attack. To counter the threats posed by trucks transporting hazardous chemicals and fuels to populated areas, Schumer unveiled a new plan to secure our truck fleet.

"The lesson we learned after 9/11 was that we can never be too careful when it comes to securing our homeland," Schumer said. "Well, guess what? Today if terrorists wanted to do something horrible to us, chances are they could take a truck with dangerous materials in it, drive it to a major landmark, ignite the cargo right there, and cause unspeakable damage. To keep New Yorkers safe, we need to invest the money and energy on securing our trucks that we have directed towards protecting our airways, railways, and harbors. The danger is too great."

The imminent danger posed by unsecured trucks has been highlighted by three attacks this year in which fuelladen trucks were used. In April, a terrorist drove a truck carrying liquefied natural gas and ignited his cargo in front of a synagogue in Tunisia, killing 21 tourists. In May and August, terrorists attached remotely triggered bombs to Israeli fuel tankers. Although no one was killed, terrorism experts say the attacks signal a new tactic being employed by terrorists. Across North America, terrorism officials were alerted in May when a truck hauling 96 drums of sodium cyanide was stolen north of Mexico City.

New York City is especially vulnerable to truck attacks because its main entryways from New Jersey endure a tremendous amount of truck traffic. The George Washington Bridge sees approximately 15,000 trucks a day, the Holland Tunnel is traveled by nearly 8,000, and nearly 9,000 trucks pass along the Goethals/Verrazano/Gowanus/BQE each day.

Intelligence agencies and experts also warn that New York is at heightened risk of a truck attack because its vast fleet of trucks, especially those carrying loads of toxic chemicals or explosive fuel, are ideal terrorist weapons. According to the 1997 Census of Interstate Commerce, 28 million tons of hazardous material (HAZMAT) - material capable of posing unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce - comes from New York State, and 31.5 million tons of HAZMAT enters New York each year. 740,000 HAZMAT shipments travel each day by truck in America and over 2,000 HAZMAT shipments pass through New York City each day.

In the United States, about 50,000 trips are made each day by gasoline tankers, many of which hold as much fuel as a Boeing 757. The trips often end with a latenight delivery to a deserted gas station. Experts say that chemicals present an even greater risk, particularly those like chlorine or cyanide, which can form clouds of deadly fumes.

"We can spend billions securing our airports, providing small pox vaccines to everyone and increasing guards at the northern border, but if we do not secure our truck fleet, this country will still be at grave risk from a terrorist attack," Schumer said. "A terrorist with a fuel tanker driving up to a building in New York could do unspeakable damage. We need to enact commonsense steps to protect ourselves, our city, and our country."

While Congress has implemented strict deadlines and provided billions of dollars to address airline security, little effort has been made to fix truck security. No money has been spent other than $500,000 on drivertraining courses. To bolster our truck security, Schumer announced specific steps to track drivers, cargo, and the vehicles themselves:

• Federal background check's for truck drivers. Schumer called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to perform background checks on all driver's applying for state commercial driver licenses. Driver's who wish to receive such a license would be required to undergo a background check to ensure that they do not pose a risk. A federal system would relieve states and small trucking firms from the burden of performing background checks themselves, something many firms would not be able to afford. Schumer urged that this step first quickly be implemented for those drivers applying for HAZMAT licenses, as those shipments are the most at risk.

• Tracking Technology for All Trucks. Already many of the larger trucking companies have Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems on their trucks. These systems allow the companies to always know where the trucks in their fleet are. If a truck moves off route, the company knows. Schumer asked the TSA to start mandating GPS in all trucks in order to allow authorities to find a truck quickly if intelligence shows a risk exists. GPS systems cost only $75 to $100 per truck and would provide benefit that would greatly outweigh this small cost. Many companies have stated that they are holding off implementing new technology until government rules are in place.

• HAZMAT Database. Schumer also called on the TSA to require companies shipping hazardous materials to register trucking plans with the agency. The plans would be similar to flight plans that airplanes need to file. Because all trucks will have GPS under Schumer's plan, it would be easy to ensure that shipments followed the plans they filed. If it turned out that a truck carrying HAZMATs veered off their proscribed course, authorities could easily find the truck and ensure nothing suspicious was happening.

"Registering trucking plans for HAZMAT shipments is a common sense way to make sure that these dangerous payloads are being delivered to the right place. If a terrorist planned an attack using a truck carrying dangerous chemicals or fuel, authorities would quickly be able to tell that the shipment was off course, pinpoint the location of the truck, and stop the attack," Schumer wrote in a letter to Admiral James Hoy, head of the TSA.

• New Technology Study. Finally, Schumer called on the TSA to increase research into new technologies that could bolster the safety of the nation's truck fleet. Such technologies would include panic buttons in case a truck is hijacked, and automatic engine kill switches that could be triggered remotely if a truck were stolen or veered off its intended delivery route. Such technology is already in place in Brazil and has resulted in the recovery of $500 million worth of stolen freight.

"If Brazil can protect its trucks, I am sure the United States can do the same. Developing new technologies will ensure that our truck fleets are safe and one more weapon will be taken out of the terrorists arsenal," Schumer said.

For a copy of Schumer's letter to the TSA click here.