Mineta Transportation Institute Releases Study on Motor Carrier Hazmat Transport Theft and Its Possible Use in Terrorism

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Jenkins, Butterworth, et al studied the most effective ways that safety/security measures can be leveraged for anti-terrorism
February 10, 2010
San José, CA

The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), has published Report 09-03, Potential Terrorist Uses of Highway-Borne Hazardous Materials, which evaluates security risks created by truck-borne hazardous materials, particularly gasoline tankers. The Department of Homeland Security requested the report from MTI’s National Transportation Security Center of Excellence (MTI’s NTSCOE). It is authored by Brian Michael Jenkins and Bruce R. Butterworth, along with Douglas Reeves, Billy Poe and Karl S. Shrum.

MTI has also issued a companion report, MTI Report 09-04, Implementation and Development of Vehicle Tracking and Immobilization Technologies, a study by Brian Michael Jenkins, Bruce Butterworth, and Dr. Frances Edwards. It details sp developments in tracking and immobilization technology that can increase security..

“We consider gasoline tankers, and to a lesser extent, propane tankers to be the most attractive options for terrorists seeking to use highwayborne hazmat because they can create intense fires in public assemblies and residential properties,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, Director of MTI’s NTSCOE. “We strongly urge that DHS, State governments and the industry take a renewed look at flammable liquids and gases as a weapon of opportunity, and at a strategy to improve security measures and technology.”

The peer-reviewed reports came from a review of terrorist objectives, hazardous materials, and potential targets. The reports conclude that terrorists most often seek soft targets that yield significant casualties. They also prefer attacking public buildings and assemblies. Terrorists more often choose simple operations promising modest consequences rather than complex and uncertain operations promising catastrophic ones. Terrorists have also discussed substituting fire for harder-toacquire explosives. Gasoline tankers have greater appeal because they can easily produce intense fires, operate in target-rich environments with predictable routes, and pose few security challenges.

The report urges that the government, which has focused more on hazmat that can cause catastrophic losses, also focus – as terrorists tend to – on the most readily available, least protected hazmat. The report calls for a clear strategy to increase and sustain security, and for resolving significant jurisdictional issues between federal and state authorities; strengthening hazmat security measures in the field; and implementing vehicle tracking technologies, panic alarms, and immobilization capabilities for vehicles carrying specific hazardous materials, including gasoline. These measures also offer safety and anti-crime benefits.



Mr. Jenkins is an international authority on terrorism and sophisticated crime. He directs MTI’s research on protecting surface transportation against terrorist attacks. He is also a senior advisor to the president of RAND. From 1989-98, Mr. Jenkins was deputy chairman of Kroll Associates, an international investigative and consulting firm. Before that, he was chairman of RAND’s Political Science Department, where he also directed research on political violence.

He has a BA in fine arts and an MA in history, both from UCLA. He studied in Mexico and Guatemala, where he was a Fulbright Fellow and received a fellowship from the Organization of American States. Mr. Jenkins was a paratrooper and a captain in the Green Berets, serving in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. He authored several articles, reports and books, including International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict and Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?


Mr. Butterworth has had a distinguished government career, working at congressional, senior policy, and operational levels. With Brian Michael Jenkins he co-authored Selective Screening of Rail Passengers (MTI Report 06-07), published by the Mineta Transportation Institute in February 2007. He also co-authored a May 2007 study, Keeping Bombs Off Planes: Securing Air Cargo, Aviations Soft Underbelly with P.J. Crowley, senior fellow and director of Homeland Security at the Center for American Progress. Mr. Butterworth was awarded an MS degree from the London School of Economics in 1974 and a BA degree from the University of the Pacific in 1972.


The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA21 and again under SAFETEA-LU. The institute is funded by Congress through the US DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The US DOT selected MTI as a national “Center of Excellence” following a 2002 competition.

The Institute has a Board of Trustees whose internationally-respected members represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI’s focus on policy and management resulted from a board assessment of the industry’s unmet needs and led directly to choosing the San José State University College of Business as the Institute’s home. MTI conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer focusing on multi-modal surface transportation policy and management issues.


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