Forget airport check-in lines, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last week set up check points at truck weigh stations in Tennessee as part of a coordinated effort with the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security (TDSHS) to improve highway security.
"People generally associate the TSA with airport security, and after 9/11 that was our primary focus, but now we have moved on to other forms of transportation, such as highways, buses and railways," Kevin McCarthy, TSA Federal Security Director for West Tennessee told the Jackson Sun. Following train bombings in Madrid, he said, the TSA has worked to enhance security not only on rail and mass transit systems, but on major interstate highways as well.
TSA created Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams consisting of surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detention officers and explosive detection canine teams. The teams were sent out to do simultaneous weigh-station checks throughout the state last Tuesday. Various law enforcement departments across the state, including police from Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis were involved in the checks.
Interstate 40 is one of the country's major thoroughfares, being the third longest west-east interstate highway in the U.S. after Interstate 90 and Interstate 80. Interstate 40's western end is in Barstow, CA and its eastern in Wilmington, NC, McCarthy told the Sun.
"Everything from Wal-Mart merchandise to illegal drugs and illegal immigrants are transported through this area," Larry Godwin, Deputy Commissioner of TDSHS said. "Current interdiction units are doing a good job, but further coordinated inspections will only strengthen their efforts. If we prepare for the worst, then we are ready for almost anything."