TWIC debacle and Del Monte should be ashamed

The folks at HQ couldn’t get a preplan in place for me yesterday so I slept in. Around 0930 I got up to check messages and there were none. This isn’t unusual since my satellite unit tends to miss messages sent while it is in sleep mode, so I waited a while longer.

Finally, a call in to my dispatcher revealed no plans but a message in to the planners asking “WTF?” A few minutes later, I am given a number to call for a broker for my next load.

This time I’m traveling to the harbor area in Galveston, Texas to pick up a load of fruit for Del Monte foods. The broker asked if I had a TWIC card, which I don’t, then advised me it would mean a $75 fee to go in without on. Whateva.

TWIC, for the uninitiated, is the Transportation Workers Identification Card, sort of like a passport-level security document that truck drivers and others that work in ports can purchase. I only rarely pick up in ports so I haven’t bothered, as there is a workaround: when you go to pick up a load you can “hire” someone with a TWIC card to ride around with you to make sure you don’t do something evil.

So, when I checked in at the gate of Pier 18 in Galveston I was expecting some rigorous security checking going on. I was disappointed.

Oh, there was a gate guard on the inbound side who scrutinized my (regular class A CDL) driver’s license and wrote down some details. He pointed to a orange cone a few hundred feet ahead and told me to park there and wait for the TWIC guy to come and take me in. No problemo.

I’m behind a couple other trucks so I watch as a white pickup truck comes, briefly chats with the driver, then leads the trucks into the yard one-by-one. Each non-TWIC driver gets a neat-o blue vest and this escort… and that’s it. Seventy-five bucks for the temporary use of a blue vest and a guy you follow for, I kid you not, about 300 feet. You then park your truck, get out and go to a dispatch window and do the document shuffle for the load.

In an hour or so I’m loaded with 41,000 pounds of sliced Guatemalan cantaloupe, given my paperwork and seal then told to head out. No one watched me seal my trailer. No one verified that there was a seal of any kind in place. No one checked my paperwork. I did have to drive my truck through a scanning machine sniffing for (I assume) radioactive material but that was it.

They (Del Monte) couldn’t even get the exit routine down right. I was given two green lights and slowly rolled through with no one there to stop me from leaving while a lady from the US Customs & Border Patrol chatted on a cell phone. A guard should have stopped me there to get a copy of my bills to match my truck and trailer number with them, but get this: nowhere on the bills was the seal noted. I could have easily substituted a fake one of my own design, taken this “secured” container out of the port to some undisclosed location then swiped the contents and replaced them with 41,000 pounds of whoopie cushions or anything else then sealed it with the legitimate seal!

If this is representative of the security at our ports we’ve been swindled. Del Monte should be ashamed and held accountable for their own security, and the state and federal government should be all over them like bees on honey to make it happen, with stiff penalties for being lazy AND stupid simultaneously.

NOTE: I, of course, sealed it at the port with the proper seal and will ensure the contents arrive at their destination intact with the proper temperature maintained. But imagine if I had nefarious intent instead.