WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began the third and final implementation phase of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program this week with the fingerprinting of commercial truck drivers applying to renew or transfer the hazardous materials endorsement (HME) on their State-issued commercial drivers licenses (CDL).
During phase one of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program, TSA conducted name-based security threat assessments on all 2.7 million licensed hazardous materials (Hazmat) drivers to determine whether any presented a potential terrorist threat. Phase two augmented this effort by adding a fingerprint-based FBI criminal history records check and immigration status check for new HME applicants. This third and final phase will require drivers seeking to renew or transfer their current HME to undergo the fingerprint-based security threat assessment.
"We are pleased to begin this third and final phase of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (Ret.), Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for TSA. "TSA has successfully vetted tens of thousands of new applicants who began the process in January 2005, and we look forward to beginning the process for renewing and transferring driver endorsements."
Under the USA PATRIOT Act, a state may not issue a license to transport hazmat in commerce unless TSA determines that the driver does not pose a security risk warranting denial of the license. TSA developed its program to carry out this mandate and to protect against the potential threat of terrorists transporting Hazmat. TSA has selected a vendor to assist in the collection of applicant fingerprints and information for the District of Columbia and the 33 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 are forwarded to TSA for vetting.
If TSA disqualifies an HME applicant, the driver can appeal the finding or seek a waiver from TSA. Under TSA rules, drivers are required to self-declare disqualifying events and surrender their HME to their state's licensing authority. They may apply for a waiver, but must go through the security threat assessment process. Drivers who do not wish to transport Hazmat do not need an HME, and drivers who surrender their HME will not be required to complete a security threat assessment unless they seek a waiver.
Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules, drivers must renew the HME at least once every five years, although a state may require more frequent renewals.