While safety officials push a buckle-up campaign and law-enforcement reminds us to drive with care during the long holiday weekend, the drivers of big rigs are already watching out for you. Brenda Neville, vice-President of the Iowa Motor Truck Association, says professional truck-drivers’ groups in all fifty states are now part of “Highway Watch.”
The program, offered through Homeland Security and other agencies, helps train drivers who are out on the roads in ways to be observant and be “the eyes and ears on the road” for safety and security issues. Neville says you don’t have to be a trucker to take the training, and you don’t have to become a firefighter or E-M-T.
Any driver who’ll be out on the road can take the training for Highway Watch” and they’re taught how to spot situations that might pose a hazard and how to contact the proper agencies that’ll respond — not to try and handle it themselves. Neville says the training helps them spot situations that might cause problems before they happen. She cites an erratic driver, for example, or something that poses a safety hazard. She’s heard of a truck driver who went by a van pulling a trailer that had a load that wasn’t properly secured, with things flying out of it onto the road.
The trucker called authorities who stopped the vehicle and found out the driver not only didn’t have the load properly tied down, there were illegal drugs in the vehicle as well. A trucker hauling hazardous materials may notice a vehicle traveling alongside with someone videotaping his rig and load; Neville says it’s happened. The trucker would call that in to the national Highway Watch hotline, which in turn would notify local authorities to check into it. She explains there’s been discussion of the threat that a tractor-trailer could be used in a terrorist style attack.
The Highway Watch program has passed on Amber Alerts to over-the-road drivers, and at times has issued a “Be on the Lookout” alert to members to watch for people who’ve been reported engaging in suspicious behavior.