A rapidly growing army of truckers and bus drivers have been trained under a federally funded program to spot suspicious activity on the highways, reports USA Today. The program is run by the American Trucking Association with funds from the Department of Homeland Security. Drivers take a class or watch a one-hour DVD to qualify. Almost 400,000 people – mostly commercial truck drivers – have been trained since 2004. Membership is likely to top 1 million by March 2007.
No terrorists have been nabbed, but tips helped find a missing truck carrying fertilizer, which can be used in bombs, and identified illegal immigrants at a truck-driving school. Critics say the program, Highway Watch, could lead to racial profiling. Members phone in an average of 272 reports each month to a private toll-free number. More than half are related to security. Highway Watch analysts assess reports and share them with local and federal law enforcement. Highway Watch began as a safety program and shifted its focus to terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. The program has received $45.8 million in federal grants since fiscal 2003.