Ever since 2001's horrible terror attacks on 9-11, we’ve all been conditioned to think of terrorists as Middle Easterners who hate America for various reasons. But it’s important to note that there are a lot of home-grown terrorists out there today – Americans who, for one reason or another, have a beef with our government or our society – and feel they have to act in order to either stop whatever troubles them, or inspire an uprising of some sort. Studies commissioned by various law enforcement agencies over the past few years have concluded that inside the United States today, we are actually far more likely to experience attacks from home-grown terrorists than extremists from the Middle East or Asia.

Regardless of where they’re from or whatever motivates them, it’s crucial to remember that terrorists are opportunists by necessity. They may fantasize about getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction or armies of like-minded fanatics rising up after being inspired by their actions, but in most cases they’re social-awkward losers without the financial support to carry out their schemes the way they want to. They have to use whatever weapons they can find – often going down to Plan C or even Plan D before they hit on something they can use to attack innocent people. And in many cases, the tool or method they choose to use in their attacks is an object most of us don’t even view as a “weapon." Pretty much anything can be a weapon. Remember the guy trying to kill 007 with some poison in a thread back when we were kids? (I think that was in “You Only Live Twice,” but I could be wrong.)

Which brings us to the Transportation Safety Administration’s recent warning regarding the use of trucks as a terror weapon. There have been several high-profile attacks using trucks lately. And lest you brush those off as happening overseas, don’t forget that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh used a truck in his 1995 attack. That’s because trucks make excellent terror weapons; they’re big, powerful, mobile, and offer concealment. They’re easy to obtain and they’re everywhere. Nobody looks twice at a truck.

The trucking industry after the 9-11 attacks did a commendable job acting as a nationwide guard dog force, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious, just as it does today in the front lines in the war against human trafficking. But now, trucking is itself a target and smart fleets, owner-operators and drivers would do well to be alert and start thinking about this new threat.

In response to all of this, the Truck Renting and Leasing Association just released an excellent set of guidelines to help fleets prepare for, and counter any attempts to hijack commercial vehicles and use them against so-called “soft targets.” Here are a few of the highlights, combined with a few thoughts of my own to help fight back:

  • Remember, as I said above, that not all terrorists are of Middle Eastern descent. A terrorist these days can literally be anyone. So broaden your vigilance and watch for suspicious behavior regardless of what the person looks like or how they are dressed.
  • Talk to your drivers. Trucks are easy to purchase. But not all terrorists have the luxury of fat bank accounts smeared with oil money. If they decide to steal a truck and are planning on killing a bunch of people anyway, then they may very well decide to start with the person driving the truck they want.
  • Is someone in your organization (preferably your security division) tasked with tracking terror threats and the methods and tools used? Is this information being distributed at your organization?
  • Does your fleet have written guidelines in place to address terrorist-related security issues?
  • Has your fleet reached out to and met with law enforcement officials to talk about truck attacks and ways to prevent them?
  • Have you reviewed your yard security and associated surveillance systems recently? Do you have a plan in place to periodically check and update the systems you already have in place?
  • If you are using geofencing or other GPS-enabled telematics systems, have you set them up on a way to alert fleet managers if a truck suddenly leaves an assigned route or starts behaving in a suspicious manner?
  • Is there a plan in place to contact authorities in the event of a security incident or a vehicle hijacking?

The truth is that trucks as terror weapons are nearly impossible to prevent entirely. But it’s in all our best interests to make acquiring and deploying commercial vehicles in attacks as difficult as possible to carry out. This isn’t the first time trucking has been in a leading role in our country’s defense. And the industry is certainly up to the challenge. But preventing attacks by trucks will be an ongoing challenge for this industry for the foreseeable future. And the sooner we all get educated and aware of the threats around us, the more forceful our response will be.   

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

View Bio