WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today plans for conducting background checks on commercial truck drivers who transport hazardous materials (hazmat), including explosives.
The plan requires conducting name-based terrorist focused background checks on all 3.5 million hazmat drivers this year to determine whether any present a potential terrorist threat. Drivers will also undergo an FBI fingerprint-based criminal history check to begin no later than January 31, 2005.
TSA developed this plan to protect against the threat posed by terrorists transporting hazmat, and to maximize flexibility for the states so the issuance of hazmat endorsements is not impeded by security requirements.
Previously the deadline for states to begin collecting fingerprints and providing them to the FBI was April 1, 2004. TSA is providing states additional time to make the significant changes to their existing commercial driver safety and testing programs.
The USA PATRIOT Act requires background checks for all commercial drivers who apply for, renew or transfer a hazmat endorsement. TSA will notify the States of the results of the background checks and states will either issue or deny hazmat endorsement based on that information. The act gives TSA responsibility for collecting and transmitting fingerprints and other information from applicants for hazmat endorsements to the FBI.
If a hazmat endorsement is denied, a driver can appeal on grounds of mistaken identity or inaccurate court records. Drivers who do not wish to transport hazardous materials do not need an endorsement, and drivers who surrender an endorsement will not be subject to a background check. Hazardous items include gasoline, explosive cartridges, radioactive and infectious substances, propane, chlorine, acids, ammonia and other poisonous gases.
Drivers must renew a hazmat endorsement every five years, although a state may require more frequent renewals. Under TSA rules, drivers are responsible for reporting disqualifying events.