Daniel England, CEO of Salt Lake City-based truckload carrier C.R. England, believes the background check program being put in place to monitor truck drivers with haz-mat endorsements on their Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) is unworkable and won’t achieve either the government or trucking’s stated goal of preventing terrorists from getting their hands on hazardous materials.
“I believe, and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) believes, the primary objective of the background check today is to prevent a terrorist from legitimately gaining access to a load of hazardous materials for the purpose of doing harm,” England said in testimony before Congress this month.
“The trucking industry unequivocally supports that objective,” he continued. “However, where we differ from those at the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] is that we believe the objective can be accomplished through means that do not unnecessarily discourage drivers from hauling hazardous materials by virtue of inconvenient processes and inflated costs. We must all keep in mind that a hazardous materials endorsement is required to haul such innocuous -- from a weapons standpoint -- and routinely used products as paint and nail polish.”
Since fingerprint-based background checks for new applicants went into effect Jan. 31, England said the process has been costly and burdensome. As of May 31, however, the requirements will be expanded to include drivers seeking renewals and transfers. “This is a significantly larger population [estimated at roughly 2.7 million drivers by TSA] and TSA’s inability to smoothly handle background checks for the small population of new applicants is hardly reassuring that it will be able to handle an estimated 45,000 renewals monthly,” he stated. “This program needs immediate attention.”
England said ATA would like to see the TSA perform just name-based checks of drivers until such time as a nationwide security-credentialing program is put in place for all modes of transportation – trucking, rail, air, etc.
“This approach will continue to ensure that terrorists do not obtain hazardous materials endorsements,” he said. “It will also allow the trucking industry to tie into a coordinated program that, if implemented properly, could minimize costs, reduce driver inconvenience, and eliminate duplicative and redundant background checks of drivers and/or other transportation workers.”