Highway Watch Helps Truckers Protect America

By Howard Stihlman, Staff Writer
Article last updated on 8/23/2007

It’s no secret that trucks move America. From the foods we eat to the clothes we wear, almost every product we need to survive gets to us with help from the trucking industry. But what would happen if trucks were stopped because of a terrorist attack or a severe highway accident? Luckily, the truck driving industry has a special program designed to keep America running in the face of almost any emergency.


Highway Watch was founded by the American Trucking Association in 1998 after similar programs had yielded success in the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The campaign was started after the cell phone boom of the late 90s began to overload 911 response servers when accidents or traffic backups occurred on the nation’s interstates. Also, because travelers were often unsure of their locations when they needed help, emergency vehicles could not respond as quickly as possible. Today, every state department of transportation participates in the Highway Watch program, as well as hundreds of American trucking companies.


The overall purpose of Highway Watch has always been to promote safety by putting more properly trained eyes and ears on America’s roadways. However, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, trucks became the potential target of hijackings for use as weapons. To protect America and its many truck drivers, Highway Watch began providing its members with anti-terrorism training to help prevent, recognize, and stop terrorist threats. Arkansas became the first state to begin offering anti-terrorism training in April 2002. Through a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Highway Watch supplies training to its members at no cost, and getting training is easy for licensed truck drivers. Highway Watch offers classroom sessions, web-based training, DVDs, and audio cassettes in both English and Spanish.


Has Highway Watch really helped truckers make a difference? Definitely. Highway Watch members have done everything from stopping the trafficking of illegal immigrants to locating a missing truck and driver. In one case, trained Highway Watch members at a Michigan trucking school helped the FBI capture illegal immigrants on the terrorist watch list after the men’s suspicious behavior alerted instructors. Another trained driver saw a man videotaping a chemical plant at 2 a.m. and, by using the Highway Watch database instead of 911, was able to report it to authorities without taking up the valuable time of emergency personnel.


Becoming a member of the Highway Watch program gives a sense of pride to truck drivers everywhere. Not many people can say they have stopped a potential terrorist or foiled an illegal immigration scheme. “The feedback we get from drivers is overwhelmingly positive,” says Highway Watch spokesman John Willard. “I think truck drivers are really glad to be able to help make America safer. It gives them a sense of pride in their jobs.” Not only do truck drivers supply the country with the things we need, but they also help to keep us safe in ways most of us never knew about. With programs such as Highway Watch in place, truck driving is a career that can help you make a difference in keeping America safe and secure.

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