BNA Daily Labor Report: New Security Credentials for Drivers?

March 4, 2008: The American Trucking Associations is urging shippers and chemical facilities not to force drivers of hazardous materials to obtain a new security credential that is used for port facilities, saying those drivers already have a credential that requires a full background check.

In a letter to the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council dated Feb. 22, ATA encouraged chemical plants not to demand extra credentials from hazmat drivers who have already passed a security clearance. The advisory council is an industry organization that includes shippers, transporters, and chemical companies and that promotes the safe transport of hazardous materials.

Heightened security in ports has required the establishment of new security credentials, known as Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, or TWIC.

But drivers using a different security clearance, known as a Hazardous Materials Endorsement, are increasingly finding themselves shut out of nonport facilities, despite the fact that those drivers have passed an identical security screening, Richard Moskowitz, ATA vice president and regulatory affairs counsel, told BNA Feb. 28.

TWIC is required for entry into a facility covered by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. These biometric credentials are issued to workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports, vessels, and outer continental shelf facilities, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Nonport chemical and petroleum facilities are governed by Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, or CFATS, which require a commercial drivers license with a Hazardous Materials Endorsement, also issued by TSA.

But according to the American Trucking Associations, some facilities covered by chemical plant rules are requiring drivers to have TWIC credentials. That could mean drivers who are fully credentialed for work at chemical facilities could still be barred from entering those facilities to do their jobs, according to Moskowitz.

Ted Cromwell, senior director of security and operations for the American Chemistry Council, told BNA he understands the challenges facing drivers. The problems, he said, are the result of having to comply with several different regulations. Facilities are simply trying to make the best security decisions they can, he added.

"It's about having a consistent approach and everyone having the same credential," he said.

'Enormous Burden' Seen

Requiring drivers working at nonport facilities to obtain the transport worker identification "imposes an enormous burden on drivers, who may be unable to obtain a TWIC card, especially at this nascent stage of the TWIC implementation process, where the number of locations processing TWIC applications are limited," Moskowitz wrote in the letter to the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council. The advisory council later issued a statement detailing the issue.

TSA began issuing the transport worker identification at the Port of Wilmington, Del., last October and will continue through calendar year 2008 at other ports.

Some facilities in landlocked states are requiring drivers to obtain TWIC clearances, said John Conley, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers Inc.

"They're saying just go get a TWIC, and use that as your security credential," he told BNA. "But there's no call for it now."

He said one company has 20 facilities, four of which are located in ports. To avoid confusion the company wants all drivers entering its facilities to have TWIC credentials, but drivers are not yet prepared to make a wholesale change.

In its statement, the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council noted that the background checks for a transport worker credential are the same as those for a Hazardous Materials Endorsement.

Biometric Information Required

According to the Transportation Security Administration's Web site, to obtain a TWIC, an individual must provide biographic and biometric information such as fingerprints, sit for a digital photograph, and successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by the agency.

"If you look at it from the perspective of the truck driver, it's simple," Conley said. "Most of our members haul hazmat. They've done the whole fingerprint thing. Now, all of a sudden, they have to go get this TWIC background check. The drivers are rightfully saying, 'What's changed since last year when I did it?' Why the duplication?"

Moskowitz said in the future it is likely that TWIC will become the over-arching security clearance, which is why some facilities are requiring drivers to have it now. But, he said, the TWIC cards were only introduced last year.

"It's an idea that's ahead of its time," he said. "We envision TWIC credential will be the single universally accepted security credential one day. But it's just starting to be rolled out, so it's not capable of functioning as such yet."

Making TWIC credentials mandatory in facilities where they are not legally required poses both financial and logistical problems, he said.

Cost Cited as Issue

"You could have a driver spend $97 on an HME and then have to go spend another $100-plus on a TWIC credential," Moskowitz said.

TWIC cards cost $105.25 for those workers with a comparable background check, such as a Hazardous Materials Endorsement, and $132.50 for those without a comparable check. The credentials are valid for five years.

Moskowitz and Conley said their organizations have proposed that TSA separate the Transport Worker Identification Credential and the Hazardous Materials Endorsement.

Ideally, they said, the hazmat endorsement would become a test of knowledge drivers had to take before hauling hazardous materials that could not be easily weaponized, such as paint or fingernail polish. It would not require fingerprinting and an in-depth background check.

TWIC would then become the credential used by drivers carrying "things bad people could use to do bad things," Conley said.

He said TSA understands and is interested in the idea, but that "right now the red-tape and bureaucratic roadblocks seem like you can't cut through them even with a machete."

State Requirements Pose Related Problem

Ed Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, said a related problem is that despite implementation of the national TWIC program, states are still allowed conduct their own checks.

For example, Florida requires workers entering a deep-water seaport to hold a Florida Uniform Port Access Credential (FUPAC). As a result, all port workers in those facilities will need both a TWIC and FUPAC to gain unescorted port access.

Wytkind told BNA that the state programs should be preempted by the federal program because multiple checks are costly and "make no difference in safety."

"No one can tell me a state-based program is going to create a safer system," Wytkind said.

He said drivers have to face "very obtrusive" checks "potentially more than once.

"[Drivers] have multiple tags around their necks," Wytkind said.

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