It’s not a good time to be getting into the hazardous materials business. While increased federal presence is something many businesses will have to get used to, there is a heightened sense of awareness among the companies themselves, particularly those that see potential for terrorist attacks.
“Any trucking company would be double checking any new ‘haz mat’ shipments,” said Patty Senecal, vice president of sales at Transport Express in Rancho Dominguez. “What’s changed, though, is not how we’re handling it, it’s who is it coming from and where is it going. If the person giving me the order is someone I haven’t done business with, I’d have some concerns about that.”
Robert Maberry, manager of chemical transportation safety at Yellow Freight System in Overland Park, Kan., echoed those concerns. “We’re working on the front end of this how we’re getting the freight and who’s it going to,” he said.
Steve Hunt, president of ShipMate Inc. in Torrance, a dangerous-goods consultant, said he wouldn’t be surprised if many companies begin refusing orders outright, if for no other reason than to decrease the liability of an incident.
“I’m sure a number of companies are not taking certain materials,” he said.
Senecal confirmed that certain orders are being refused, but added that such action isn’t unusual. “If we don’t like what it is or how much of it (is being transported), we’ll refuse the order,” she said. “But that happens all the time.”
Heightened security is being seen at all levels of the distribution chain, from air-cargo shipments being put on 24-to-48 hour holds to seaports singling out shipments for inspection.
“Every ship is being screened,” said Manny Aschemeyer, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbors. “(Incoming ships) have to send our crew lists, hazardous materials manifests, and (many ships) are being examined by the Coast Guard as well as other federal agencies.”
Lt. Richard Molloy, public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, confirmed that “high-risk” ships are being thoroughly checked. “If the vessel falls into a high-risk category, which could be for various reasons, then we’ll board with FBI and other law enforcement teams,” he said.
Widespread concern of dangerous materials getting into the wrong hands has kept shippers fairly patient about the delays. Hayman said the slower processing of shipments is here to stay. “There are delays, and it will probably have to become a way of life,” he said. “It’s going to be incorporated into the way we do business.”
Aschemeyer agreed: “This is not temporary. It’s only the beginning.”