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Buses, Trucks: 'Us, Too'

The head of the American Bus Association says increased security sweeps of passengers and baggage, secured areas at terminals, and switches to automatically shut off bus engines could make travel safer.

In testimony prepared for delivery Wednesday to a Senate Commerce subcommittee, Peter Pantuso, president of the trade group for intercity buses, also called for a government task force to propose security improvements for buses, trains and subways.

"In light of the terrorist attacks on the United States just a month ago, it seems almost trite to say that these, and other issues, must be decided quickly," Pantuso said. "There is nothing more important to the national interest today."

American Trucking Associations Chairman Duane Acklie said in his prepared testimony that trucking companies should have the same power to search law enforcement databases as banks, day care facilities, airports and nuclear plants.

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"A scenario in which a truck driver or motor carrier warehouseman could wreak the same level of destruction as the Sept. 11 perpetrators wrought through air transport means is no longer hard to imagine," Acklie said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has recommended that companies run criminal background checks on individuals with access to explosives, poison gases and biological agents.

The government also has recommended that companies do extensive background checks on drivers who can be linked to a country that supports terrorist activities. The companies should make sure their drivers are U.S. citizens or have the proper immigration papers.

Trucking firms now hire outside companies to do county-by-county checks because they cannot use the federal criminal databases.

"It is simply not feasible to conduct a nationwide check under the present scheme," Acklie said.

Since the terrorist attacks, bus companies have added more security officers at terminals, increased their use of surveillance cameras, and made sure bus drivers can inform terminals or offices of potential threats. Greyhound, the country's largest private bus company which had a driver attacked by a passenger last week, is using handheld metal detectors at three terminals.

The trucking industry has designated specific drivers and specific routes for certain cargo, told their drivers not to stop to help a motorist except in a clear emergency, emphasized that drivers transporting hazardous materials should seek alternative routes to avoid highly populated areas, and advised drivers to tell their supervisors or law enforcement agencies of suspicious shipments.

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