HAZMAT safety and security technologies can have tremendous societal cost savings well beyond the break even point for benefits and costs.
Date Posted

Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Technology Field Operational Test Volume II: Evaluation Final Report Synthesis

Summary Information

This HAZMAT Safety and Security Technology field operational test was conducted working towards the goals of improving homeland security protection of truck-based hazardous materials shipments. This field operational test was designed to test the ability of commercially available technology systems to reduce vulnerabilities in HAZMAT shipping while providing sufficient returns on investment to motor carriers to encourage deployment. These technologies promise to enhance not only security, but also operational efficiencies and potentially, safety.

There are approximately 800,000 HAZMAT shipments per day with many involving materials that could be used for terrorist attacks with staggering potential consequences in terms of deaths, injuries, property damage, and business disruption. With resources in limited supply and many security threats to contend with, HAZMAT trucking requires implementing solutions that are currently available, reduce risk, and that provide tangible and quickly realized benefits to stakeholders proportional to their level of investment. This evaluation examined the technical and financial performance of several promising technologies for increasing the security of HAZMAT shipments to determine what levels of operational efficiency and security benefits can be attained through deployment. This was a first of a kind study that focused on analysis relating to security benefits. This effort called upon the input and guidance of many nationally recognized experts in HAZMAT shipping, security and counter-terrorism, and risk analysis and management, to assess the capabilities of the technology systems tested in this test. The field operational test duration was 18 months.

The field operational test deployed different technology combinations. Wireless mobile communications technologies consisted of satellite and terrestrial communications with GPS-provided vehicle tracking and two-way communications between the driver and dispatcher. Digital phone tracking without GPS provided integrated work order assignment and messages between the dispatcher and driver.

In-vehicle technologies consisted of on-board computers, panic buttons and electronic cargo seals. On-board computers process data by receiving and analyzing information from sensors and devices on the vehicle. The computers store and present the information in a convenient and easily accessible manner. On-board computers provide vehicle disabling and remote locking/unlocking capability. Panic Buttons provide real-time emergency alert messaging notification and localized vehicle shutdown. Electronic cargo seals utilize short-range wireless communications to automatically generate an alert if the seal is broken without proper authorization.

Personal identification technologies consisted of biometrics and a personal identification number. Biometrics consists of technologies that analyze human characteristics (eyes, facial recognition, fingerprint, hand geometry, etc.) for verification of identity and access. This field operational test used fingerprint recognition technology.

Mobile data management used smart card technology to enable the electronic supply chain manifest (ESCM) system. The ESCM system combines biometric verification, smart cards, Internet applications, and the on-board wireless communications system to ensure proper chain-of-control.

Vehicle tracking used routing and Geofenced mapping software to put a "virtual fence" around a vehicle's intended route and automatically notify dispatch and operations personnel when the vehicle deviates from the route. Trailer tracking consisted of both tethered tracking, which provides connect and disconnect events, and untethered tracking which is combined with Geofencing to provide security to the unconnected trailer.

Different combinations of these technologies were used within four hazmat cargo truck types.


Technology performance overall for the technologies was good, with most technologies performing well under operational conditions with the exception of fingerprint recognition and electronic seals. These two technologies were seen as requiring additional product development to be fully adapted for and accepted in the HAZMAT trucking environment.

The wireless communication system with GPS tracking provided a positive return on investment for all four of the test scenarios, and also provided the base for vulnerability reduction, with the additional technologies providing incremental gains.

The tested technologies showed the capability to significantly reduce the vulnerability of hazardous materials transportation, with the greatest reductions for the attack profile: theft. In all cases except for the less than truckload (LTL) scenario, preventing only one terrorist attack by using the tested technologies over a 3-year period would lead to a tremendous societal cost savings well beyond the break even point for benefits and costs.

The combined benefit-cost analysis showed positive benefit-to-cost ratios in all categories, from a low in the LTL environment of approximately 1:1 to a high of 97:1 in the truckload explosives operations.

In the distribution of overall security and efficiency benefits between society and motor carriers, it was found that motor carriers would realize 60 to 72 percent; 81 to 92 percent; 5 to 13 percent; and 1 to 3 percent of benefits for bulk fuel, LTL high-hazard, bulk chemicals, and truckload explosives operations, respectively.

See Also:

D. Stock, et al. Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Technology Field operational test Volume I: Evaluation Final Report Executive Summary, Prepared by SAIC for the FMCSA USDOT, Report No. FHWA-JPO-05-011, EDL No. 14094. Washington, DC: 11 November 2004.