"ATA has followed with some interest TSA's efforts to establish higher visibility operations in surface transportation," Byrd said of the Transportation Security Administration's Visible Intermodal Preparedness and Response program.
Last October, TSA deployed VIPR teams at several locations along highways in Tennessee. A similar "counter-terrorism exercise" was conducted in the fall of 2010 in Douglas County, Ga., on Interstate 20, which also involved the participation of VIPR teams that stopped and inspected commercial vehicles . The inspections that took place in Georgia involved more intensive inspections, including sending trucks through equipment measuring radiation.
"TSA officials informed industry that the presence of VIPR teams at highway facilities, such as weigh stations, was not due to any specific threat or intelligence," he added. "ATA supports such operations as long as they are based on intelligence or specific risks that require increased vigilance and security on our highways."
If TSA is going to conduct operations or exercises as those described in Georgia and Tennessee, Byrd said, ATA requests that the agency inform industry representatives, such as the Motor Carrier Sector Coordinating Council, of the timeframes and locations of the initiatives so commercial trucking operations can plan accordingly and not face disruptions for time-sensitive deliveries. Byrd added, "Involving or raising awareness about such operations with trucking companies could improve the outcomes of such exercises, especially if the goal of such operations is to provide commercial drivers with information about security awareness."
Byrd said the committee should request the results of these exercises so the public and policymakers can judge their effectiveness.
To read all of Byrd's testimony, click here.