TSA begins background checks on hazmat drivers

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National Press Release
Monday, January 31, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began the second phase of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program today with the fingerprinting of commercial truck drivers applying to obtain a hazardous materials endorsement (HME) on their state-issued commercial drivers license (CDL).

During phase one, TSA conducted name-based security threat assessments on all 2.7 million Hazmat drivers to determine whether any presented a potential terrorist threat. Phase two augments this effort by adding a FBI fingerprint-based criminal history records check and immigration status check. The third and final phase of implementation begins May 31, 2005 when drivers, who currently hold HMEs and wish to renew or transfer the HME, must undergo the fingerprint-based background check.

"We are eager to continue implementation of this important program to help enhance our nation's security," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (Ret.), Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for TSA. "By partnering with states to ensure Hazmat drivers have undergone a security threat assessment, we add another layer of security in the transport of hazardous materials."

Under the USA PATRIOT Act, a state cannot issue, renew or transfer an HME unless the driver successfully completes TSA's security threat assessment. TSA developed its program to meet the requirements of the Act and to protect against the threat posed by terrorists transporting hazardous materials in commerce. TSA has selected a vendor to assist in the collection of applicant fingerprints and information for states that have elected to use a TSA agent for this purpose. Seventeen states have elected to complete these tasks using state resources. In either case, the drivers' fingerprints and biographical information will be forwarded to TSA for vetting.

If TSA disqualifies an HME applicant, the driver can appeal the finding or seek a waiver from TSA. Drivers who do not wish to transport hazardous materials do not need a HME, and drivers who surrender a HME will not be required to complete a security threat assessment. Some examples of shipments classified as hazardous materials include gasoline, explosives, radioactive and infectious substances, propane, chlorine, acids, ammonia and other poisonous gases.

Drivers must renew the HME at least every five years, although a state may require more frequent renewals. Under TSA rules, drivers are responsible for reporting disqualifying events.

For more information, please visit the Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment website or call 1-877-429-7746.