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Officials start inspecting 750 Kan. trucking firms By Jean Hays The Wichita Eagle
Federal officials in charge of truck safety have begun the daunting task of inspecting 750 trucking companies in Kansas during the next two weeks.
All of the companies operate tanker trucks and hold a federal permit to haul hazardous materials.
Inspectors are concentrating first on companies that haul bulk explosives, anhydrous ammonia, fuels and poisonous gases, such as chlorine.
Kansas truckers were briefed on the security measures this week at their annual convention at Century II in Wichita, which ended Friday.
The security screening visits are part of a nationwide check after the FBI warned about possible terrorist attacks involving chemical or biological weapons.
At least 20 Middle Eastern men have been arrested this week for fraudulently obtaining licenses to transport hazardous materials through an alleged scam in Pennsylvania.
None of the men have been linked to the Sept. 11 hijackings.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration instituted a number of precautions earlier this week, including checks of all 2 million licenses.
About 103,000 people have licenses in Kansas to haul hazardous materials, which include explosives, toxic chemicals and flammable liquids.
Inspectors are reviewing hiring practices and security measures, said Tom Whitaker, Kansas Motor Carriers Association president.
"They are coming in to see if the truck doors will lock, if they have gates, if they have the routes that the drivers are driving and making sure that they are doing everything possible to make sure that those loads are getting to the consumers," he said.
Whitaker said he does not expect many changes in the trucking industry.
Many companies had adopted security measures, including background checks of drivers, at the request of their insurance companies before the terrorist attacks.
Still, those companies are being more cautious.
"I think more companies will take a very close look at the drivers that they have hired over the last two years just to make sure that everything is appropriate," he said.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 29, 2001