Earlier this week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented the final phase of its fingerprint-based threat assessment rule for hazmat drivers, which now applies to drivers seeking to renew the hazardous materials endorsement for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Trucking interests have warned of the potential for more driver shortages resulting from the rule and of anecdotal instances of slow processing times. However it will take about a full quarter to draw definitive conclusions regarding the efficiency of driver processing, or the effect the rule has on the hazmat driver pool, said Cliff Harvison, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers Assn. (NTTC)
Since the program came into effect for new applicants on Jan. 31, 30,000 applicants have been processed.
“We should have some solid metrics in the fall when [the program has] been running in its complete form,” Jessica Altschul, TSA spokesperson told Fleet Owner, adding that the program has been running “very smoothly” so far.
To handle fingerprint and data collection and transmission, TSA said 33 states and the District of Columbia are using Integrated Biometric Technology (IBT), the primary TSA-certified contractor, while the other states opted to develop their own means.
“Definitely the states [that opt not to contract their work] are on the same page with TSA and the industry to ensure that the drivers don’t miss any work,” said Altschul. “Some states are using police stations while some are using post offices.”
“We still don’t think there are enough [sites for fingerprint collection], particularly in non-contracting states,” NTTC’s Harvison said.
Since Jan. 31 on a state-by-state basis, it appears that application processing time has been inconsistent with some carriers reporting a 7-day span and others up to 60—particularly in non-IBT states, Harvison said. That problem remains unchanged, he added.
Tim Hitchcock, president of Canaan, CT-based hazmat carrier Hitchcock Bros. Inc. concurs.
“There’s a problem in the slowdown in an already difficult process— all carriers in our industry are going to be very affected by this,” Hitchcock told Fleet Owner. “And there is an insufficient number of fingerprinting sites. Although [our carrier] had some people get through it successfully, in terms of the whole driver pool it will hurt our industry’s ability to recruit in an ever shrinking pool of hazmat drivers.”