Last August, the FBI warned of a possible fuel-truck attack in a major U.S. city, according to The Christian Science Monitor
. Federal officials and trucking organizations say that the government’s post-9/11 programs (such as driver background checks and its “highway watch” program) are enough to protect hazmat trucking, but industry observers point to vulnerabilities, such as lax security at trucking terminals or the possibility of hijacking on the open road.The debate centers on whether the government should force the industry to spend $1.1 billion on security technology such as satellite-based communications, global positioning tracking systems, remote vehicle-disabling devices, biometric identification, and “panic buttons” that send out instant alerts to law enforcement. Around 800,000 hazmat loads hit the road every day, carrying everything from chlorine and gasoline to liquefied natural gas and radioactive material each year, according to a recent study by the Transportation Security Administration. Such shipments are "dangerous and ready-made weapons," the Department of Transportation concluded in 2004, and are "especially attractive" to terrorists.The Department of Transportation says that by spending about $5,500 per truck, shipping companies could reduce the truck-bomb threat by about 36 percent and improve operating efficiency.As of 2003, nearly two-thirds of the nation's 115,000 fuel trucks had global positioning systems and wireless communications. But only 12 percent had a panic button, and just 8 percent had remote vehicle disabling, the study found. And getting the industry to adopt these might require government mandates - something the industry opposes.