Highway Watch is a program instituted by the federal government in a post 9-11 United States. The mission statement of Highway Watch is as follows:
"The Highway Watch program is composed of dedicated individuals who are committed to improving highway safety and guarding the welfare of the motoring public"
Highway Watch is a voluntary effort comprised of a partnership of the Department of Homeland Security, the American Trucking Association (ATA), state law enforcement agencies, and trucking companies. The program is funded through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and is administered by the ATA.
The program seeks to enlist volunteers from the trucking industry to act as eyes and ears to report suspicious activities of either a criminal or potentially terroristic nature to authorities. These volunteers can also notify authorities of accidents or hazardous driving conditions. This volunteer army multiplies the information gathering capabilities of existing law enforcement and counter terrorist organizations. Each member of this volunteer army receives training to aid them in the decision making process as to when to make a call to authorities. It also addresses the need to not put themselves at risk in their sleuthing activities. The volunteers are asked to report what they see or hear and nothing else. Upon reporting the information to the Highway Watch Hotline number, the call center decides which agency is best suited to respond.
The program provides a method of contacting authorities other than the 911 system, which in the event of an emergency can be swamped with calls. Highway Watch participants each have an individual ID number which allows the call center to verify who is making the call and also assures that the caller has had appropriate training. This makes the call potentially more valuable than a call from the general public.
Upon receiving a call from a Highway Watch volunteer, the call center makes the decision as to which agency the information should be given. A call about an accident on the highway or hazardous driving conditions will be routed to the state police and fire/rescue responders. A call of a potential terroristic nature may be routed to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security or other agency for investigation and/or response.
The potential pool of volunteers is over 3 million strong. Truck drivers and other surface transportation professionals are almost everywhere on the nation's highways. They are in a good position to alert authorities should they see dangerous situations. Their warning call could allow authorities to respond in a much more timely manner, saving lives and property. Instead of relying solely on police and federal agencies to watch the infrastructure of the US, these volunteers provide a needed blanket of observers which augments the efforts of law enforcement many times over.
There are over 500,000 volunteers who have received training and are enabled to make reports to the Highway Watch Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC). Reports have been received which have led to the recovery of missing trucks with materials useful in making weapons or explosive devices. Reports have also led to the identification of individuals seeking CDL training as either illegal or on potential terrorist watch lists. As the volunteer force expands it should lead to many more thwarted attempts to attack the US using either trucks or the materials they transport.
Just this past week I took the training to become a participant in the Highway Watch program. It consisted of a video lecture by a former Delta Force
member who is trained in anti-terrorist tactics and response. Part of the training consists of a review of terrorist plans and how they are developed, rehearsed, and implemented by terrorist organizations. The training stresses paying attention to things or persons who simply don't look right (DLR). It could be someone who is too curious about what you are transporting, where your are going with your freight, or other detail they simply should not be given. It could be an innocent question, a setup to be robbed, or even worse being hijack
ed and your truck and/or cargo being used to prosecute an attack on innocent people.
Some people have criticized the program as part of 'Big Brother' government ala George Orwell's classic novel 1984. Others hail it as a necessary step in securing the infrastructure from potential threat. If it saves a life or an injury, locates and detains a single terrorist, or makes our nation safer I'm in favor of it.
One of our drivers from Georgia informed us that Highway Watch training is now required in order to renew his CDL. That negates the volunteer aspect in my opinion. I have investigated his report and it is true, Georgia requires all holders of a CDL issued by them to participate in Highway Watch. I believe it would be better to have a cadre of willing volunteers than one of unwilling conscripts. I hope it isn't a case of the camel getting his nose under the tent, as was the case with the seat belt laws. In the beginning, the seat belt laws were an item of 'voluntary' compliance, a gentle reminder by your friends at the state department of motor vehicles whose sole interest was your safety and welfare. This has since been transmogrified into Click it or Ticket, a much less gentle tactic which will seperate you from your hard earned money for violation.
Highway Watch is a great idea, one I hope the government doesn't screw up as it has managed to do with so many other great ideas in the past.