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Drilling Holes to Search for Drugs Outrages Truck Drivers


October 1996

U.S. Customs Service officials have been drilling holes of up to a quarter-inch in width into trucks entering the United States to search for hidden compartments containing prohibited substances. Customs agents say the holes in the walls and ceilings of the trucks give dogs a better opportunity to sniff for the presence of contraband. Although the technique has resulted in some seizures, it has left some truckers outraged. "Anytime you've got a $45,000 piece of equipment and somebody's drilling holes in it, that's bad," said Joe Smart, the branch manager for W&B Refrigeration, a trucking company in Harlingen, Texas. The holes are usually patched with silicon, which often becomes brittle over time, allowing moisture to enter and ruin the insulation on a refrigerated trailer. Judy Turner, spokeswoman for the Customs Service's regional headquarters in Houston, said the drilling is effective, saves time and money for the government and the truckers, and is only carried out when Customs inspectors suspect illegal substances. "Our people are trained. They don't go along haphazardly and drill every 2 inches," Turner said (Dane Schiller, "Customs tactics outrage truckers," Rocky Mountain News, August 15, 1996, p. 44A).