TSA announces new background check requirement for Hazmat drivers licensed in Canada or Mexico

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Program ensures background check comparable to endorsed U.S. operators
National Press Release
Thursday, July 20, 2006

WASHINGTON The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced that beginning August 10, 2006 drivers licensed in Canada or Mexico to commercially transport hazardous materials will be required to undergo a background check under the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program before transporting placarded amounts of hazardous materials (hazmat) in the United States.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEALU) requires that, beginning August 10, 2006, commercial drivers licensed in Canada or Mexico may not transport hazmat, including explosives, within the U.S. unless they have undergone a background check similar to that required for U.S. operators with a hazmat endorsement.

In 2004, TSA initiated the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program, which requires commercial truck drivers applying to obtain, renew or transfer the hazardous materials endorsement (HME) on their state-issued commercial drivers licenses (CDL) to undergo security threat assessments conducted by TSA. TSA has determined that the FAST card, issued by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), satisfies the vetting standard requirements as set forth under SAFETEA-LU for commercial vehicle operators registered to operate in Mexico or Canada.

"TSA has been working with CBP and our partners in the Canadian and Mexican governments to find a solution that both enhances security and promotes commerce across our borders," said Stephen Sadler, TSA's Director of Maritime and Surface Credentialing. "Use of the FAST card for drivers registered in Mexico or Canada brings consistency to the current rules so that the required background checks are conducted on all individuals who transport hazardous materials in the United States." TSA is currently engaged in rulemaking that will amend applicable portions of 49 CFR 1572 to reflect these changes. TSA is issuing this notification prior to publication of the rule to inform stakeholders and industry members of the requirement and allow them the opportunity to begin the FAST card application process.

This change will also extend to the regulations governing drivers licensed in Canada or Mexico who transport explosive materials, currently set forth at 49 CFR 1572.201. The new regulation will allow the cargo transported by these drivers to come under the broader definition of hazmat and will ensure that drivers licensed to carry explosives are fully vetted by CBP before transporting explosives. It will not impact other restrictions applicable to motor carriers operations originating in Canada or Mexico.

The FAST program is a cooperative effort among CBP and the governments of Canada and Mexico to coordinate processes for the clearance of commercial shipments at the border. Northern and southern border FAST driver cards are valid at any CBP land border crossing where the technology currently exists. Information on the application process may be found on the CBP website.

For more information please visit the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program, or call (877) 429-7746.