PORT OF BALTIMORE – Brian Miller will tell you that tighter security measures are on the way for truckers serving America’s ports. The issue he’s coming to grips with is what form such security measures will take and how smoothly ports can implement them to minimize disruptions to freight traffic.

“Since September 11, most ports have been playing catch up in terms of where we need security to be,” Miller, manager of terminal operations for the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), told Fleet Owner. “Here at the Port of Baltimore, we’ve enhanced security by adding more police and security officers at the gates. We’re also tightening our gate access procedures as of July 1.”

Plans are also in the works to issue identification cards to truckers that serve the port, but the MPA isn’t setting a target date as of yet. “We’re still looking at what forms of identification will work best,” Miller said. “But the key fact of life is that we have to do it and that truckers have to get used to that idea. Will going through security checks slow them down? Obviously, to some degree, but we’re trying to do it in a way to minimize delays.”

Miller said the reason MPA is approaching trucker identification so carefully is that 80 to 85% of the port’s cargo is delivered and picked up by trucks. The port has also focused on speeding up the “turnaround time” for truckers in recent years, with a target of 30 minutes for “single moves” – either dropping off or picking up a container – and 50 minutes for “dual moves” – both dropping off and picking up.

“Right now, for dual moves, we’re at 54 minutes – and that’s while handling 1,200 truck moves per day,” he said. “We work very closely with the port trucking community here, too, to make sure we’re getting people in and out as smoothly as possible. They are our partners in this.”

Miller added that the Port of Baltimore already put several ‘checks and balances’ in place for granting access to trucks speedily and with a high degree of security. He pointed to the port’s Seagirt terminal as an example: built in 1990, the system is highly automated, checking trucks’ booking numbers sent via computer and also by remote camera systems that identify trucks by their chassis number as they are weighed in.

Not only is the “legitimacy” of the trucks checked against their booking information, container chassis are given a visual inspection as they enter and leave the port to make sure they are road-worthy. And drivers must open containers listed as “empty” to be inspected before they exit the facility.

Miller said that whatever measures the MPA establishes to further increase truck security, they will overlay the current system with as little disruption as possible. “One of our selling points is the easy access trucks have to our port via Interstate 95 and the road networks 95 serves. We’re just 1.5 miles from the Interstate,” he said. “We’ll find a way to work it out smoothly.”