Road warriors

March 1, 2006 By    

Caroline Guay was looking out the window of her home one-day several years ago when she saw something out of the ordinary.

“There was a car I had never seen in my neighbor’s carport and somebody I had never seen was spray painting it,” she says.

Guay, who is an officer with Dixie LP Gas Company in Augusta, Ga., thought the activity looked suspicious. Not knowing if maybe the car had been stolen or some other crime might have been committed, she left her own home and called 911.

“I didn’t feel comfortable staying [at home],” she says. It took some time for the dispatcher to understand why Guay was concerned and even longer – several hours – for the police to come investigate the call. “I think back now and wonder ‘Would I have used my training for that situation?’ Maybe I would have.”

The training she’s referring to is from the Highway Watch Program. The program, administered by the American Trucking Association in conjunction with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration through a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, teaches techniques to help transportation workers, including those in the propane gas industry, to look for suspicious occurrences while on the road.

When a security-related call is made to the Highway Watch hotline, the operator notifies local law enforcement authorities. A report of the incident is then generated and sent to the Highway Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center where it is shared with government intelligence officials and other law enforcement agencies.

As needed, the Highway Watch hotline sends out alerts to trained participants. These alerts may include national security updates, Amber Alerts, and ‘be on the look out’ (or BOLO) requests.

Recognizing that safety and security concerns on our highways extend beyond just trucking, Highway Watch is open to any person or organization that works within the roadway transportation environment.

There is no cost to companies who wish to receive the training. As of June 2005, more than 100,000 transportation professionals had received the program’s anti-terrorism and safety training.

Though Guay wasn’t on the job all those years ago, the training she received just last year might have come in to play back then. She learned of the Highway Watch program from the Georgia Motor Truckers Association. Her job at Dixie is to train the company’s 12 employees.

“It sounded like something I should look into, so I sent for the DVD [training video],” says Guay. “It’s the best training video I’ve ever shown. Nobody went to sleep – they were alert the whole time.”

The most important thing Guay learned from the training was the ability to be aware of your surroundings in a new way.

 About Highway Watch
About Highway Watch

“What stands out in my mind was the terrorist training video,” she says. “They could be practicing around you for months and if you catch on to what’s around you, you can thwart an event.”

In a statement announcing the expansion of the Highway Watch Program in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security stressed its importance.

“America’s truckers and other transportation workers are in a unique position to contribute to our homeland security,” says C. Suzanne Mencer, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Domestic Preparedness.

“As they travel our nation’s highways, they must be alert to a possible terrorist attack and know how to respond appropriately, how to take safety precautions and how to report suspicious activity.”

Each person trained in the Highway Watch program receives an identification number and instructions on whom to report the activity. In some companies, it’s a superior who makes the call to the Highway Watch hotline, in others, individual employees make the call.

“You cannot call 911 for things like this,” Guay says. “[The training] gives you a better understanding of the world you live in. It gives you somewhere to call if you notice a situation. It is a shame it is limited to truckers – it should be for everybody.”

William Curcio, executive vice president of Eastern Propane Corp. in New Jersey said the widespread aspect of the program makes it effective.

“It’s a national effort to protect the country and with all the drivers in this country there are lots of eyes out there,” says Curcio.

Curcio’s 32 drivers, who service northern New Jersey, southern New York and eastern Pennsylvania, and support staff were introduced to the program at a company safety day in June 2005. Law enforcement personnel were on hand as well.

“It was pretty thorough,” Curcio says. “There was a lot of information about things terrorists may be doing and what to look for.”

Suspicious cars parked in neighborhoods where drivers deliver propane on a regular basis could raise red flags, as could an abandoned car under a busy overpass.

“Things have come up and we do report them,” Curcio says. “It is followed up by agents in the FBI. They do follow through but we don’t know what the outcome is. If it’s in the FBI’s hands, it’s okay with me.”

It’s not just the drivers who are on the lookout for wary activity, Curcio says. A suspicious car or person lurking around the company parking lot could be cause for concern. Also, potential employees are screened.

If a potential employee asks a curious question, Highway Watch training dictates a second look at the applicant. Curcio says a question such as “How do you deliver propane to the plant?” could cause some concern. Also, a person who quit a job just after receiving the training for a commercial license might be questioned.

“Our employees are pretty vigilant about reporting,” says Curcio. “They know the consequences of not reporting.”

Larry Horowitz, vice president of H&H Gas Company in Trenton, N.J., said the training and vigilance that comes from it is a good thing.

“A lot of people aren’t paranoid and it’s good to get the training so they can be,” he says.

For more information about the Highway Watch Program, log on to or call 1-866-821-3444.

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