TSA Addresses Continued Concerns for Cargo Security

Concerns include both ground-based trucking as well as air cargo shipments

Still, another area of concern is securing the routes the truckers travel to reach airports.

A potential terrorist could follow drivers and tamper with their cargo loads along the way to the airport.

The TSA has tested different options to address the problem.

"I don't think there's any procedures that are airtight, but they've definitely ratcheted it up and put a lot of pressure on the airlines to check drivers," McLaughlin said.

Back in 1997, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded O'Hare a $1.5 million research grant to develop and test the smart card/biometric system.

It used fingerprint biometrics to verify the identity of truck drivers delivering cargo to the airport, as well as information encoded on a card to match the driver with cargo.

Although the program never advanced past the test stage, TSA officials, who took over such security issues for the FAA, said they haven't abandoned biometrics.

The agency has completed at least 10 of its 15 pilot programs at various airports, including O'Hare, as well as at ports and rail facilities.

One program attempts to better control access to cargo areas with radio frequency identification technology. Sensors are placed all around the area and only people with special identification can get inside.

"We are very tied into biometrics as a use in access control," said Darrin Kayser, a TSA spokesman in Washington.

"There's new technologies emerging all the time. We want to make sure it's the best approach."

After all of the pilot projects are complete, TSA's final rule will be issued. It is expected in 2006, which is after an August 2005 deadline set by Congress. As for criticism the agency hasn't moved fast enough, Kayser said the TSA's mindset is to work "smarter, not faster."

Others agreed. "We have to have a little bit of patience," said Hank Krakowski, an O'Hare-based pilot who is United Airline's vice president of corporate safety, security and quality assurance.

"They're looking at everything. I do think the processes we're using right now have worked well.

"I think the one area we would hope to rely on more is the biometric piece," he said about the proposed changes.