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Hoffa: Nation’s rails remain vulnerable to attack

(The following column by Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa appeared on the National Journal website on September 17, 2009.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Our nation’s rail system remains vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The rail workers we represent – locomotive engineers, trainmen, and track and bridge workers – still do not have adequate security training. They need to know how to thwart a train hijacking, an attack on critical rail infrastructure or the planting of a bomb on freight cars or passenger trains.

Rail lines routinely run through our major cities and towns carrying anhydrous ammonia, nuclear waste and other toxic chemicals. Freight rail corporations, however, still do not give fire and rescue operators real-time information about their trains’ cargo. Studies, such as the 2005 report generated by the Centers for Disease Control, showed that a release of a toxic gas carried on a rail car would result in “environmental damage, severe injury, or death.”

Terrorists continue to be interested in aviation as a target. Congress can help prevent a terrorist attack on airlines by passing HR 2200. The bill orders the Transportation Security Administration to issue long-overdue security standards for foreign repair stations comparable to domestic standards for air carriers and airports. The standards would cover background checks, access to aircraft and perimeter security.

This legislation would enhance airport security by requiring airport perimeter checks, 100 percent screening of air cargo, bag matches to passenger lists, air cargo crew training and uniform security background checks.

The legislation also creates a sensible approach to performing criminal background checks for port and hazmat truck drivers, eliminating redundant checks and prohibiting states from requiring separate background checks for transportation security cards.

Friday, September 18, 2009

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