Jun. 5--Along with their commercial drivers licenses, Georgia's truckers are about to become card-carrying members of Highway Watch, a safety and anti-terrorism training program funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In May, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 1253, requiring all drivers applying for or renewing a CDL in Georgia after July 1 to complete the Highway Watch training.
Ed Crowell, president of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association, said the legislation is the first of its kind and applauded Perdue and the legislature for "this commitment to keeping the people of our state and nation safe and secure."
Highway Watch began in 1998 as a safety awareness program for CDL drivers and since Spring 2002 includes anti-terrorism training. The training is fully funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is available at no cost to the CDL holder.
The one-time-only training takes approximately one hour, and a number of options (including live classes, DVDs, VHS tapes, and audio CDs) are available.
Once trained, Highway Watch participants can contact emergency personnel through a special telephone hotline, providing emergency responders with precise location and incident information. A trained operator at the Highway Watch Call Center verifies the participant's identity and location, then routes the call to the appropriate authorities.
If a call is security related, a report of the incident is forwarded to the Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center, where it is shared with intelligence officials and other law enforcement agencies.
Locally, Savannah Technical College has included the Highway Watch training as part of its commercial truck driving curriculum for more than a year, according to STC instructor Stephanie Stafsolla.
"We've been doing the training for our students," she said, "but especially now that it's mandatory, any of the local trucking companies can get the materials and train their drivers."
Larry Hearn, partner in Port City Logistics Inc., said his company's 16 CDL-licensed drivers will get the course as a part of their periodic safety training.
"It's difficult to get our drivers all in one place at one time, so it's something we have to plan for," he said. "It's definitely a worthwhile thing."
(Savannah Morning News (GA) (KRT) -- 06/08/06)