UPDATED – April 15, 2020 – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that holders of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs) are no longer required to submit duplicative biographic and biometric information – and fees – to TSA when these drivers are applying for a state-administered hazmat endorsement.
The trucking industry has lived with cumbersome and often confusing federal regulations stemming from the Patriot Act, enacted after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Fear that heavy trucks could be used as weapons of terror led to the federal government prohibiting states from issuing hazardous materials (hazmat) endorsements (HMEs) for commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs) until TSA conducted a security threat assessment. That process required the CDL holder to submit biographic and biometric information to TSA, which the agency then used to review the driver’s criminal, immigration and other elements of potential concern in the driver’s background.
In 2002, the Maritime Transportation Security Act stipulated that workers who accessed secure areas of ports, maritime facilities and vessels were required to complete a separate background check and threat assessment to be issued a biometric TWIC card, also administered by TSA. Although the TSA did not fully implement TWIC until 2007, the process cost the driver and an employer motor carrier time and money.
In October 2018 the TSA Modernization Act addressed this duplicative process by allowing states, prior to issuing a hazmat endorsement, to use an existing, valid TWIC as evidence that the required TSA threat assessment had been completed.
Meanwhile, TSA has announced that states may grant CDL drivers who already have an HME an extension of up to 180 days to obtain a renewal when those endorsements expired or would expire between March 1 and August 1 of this year. TSA may extend the exemption to a future date, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A driver must begin the renewal process at least 60 days before the end of the extension granted by a state to allow the state and TSA time for processing. TSA will continue to vet individuals against national security databases during this exemption period.
TSA has similarly extended by 180 days the renewal date for any TWIC cards which would expire on or after March 1, 2020. While this exemption nominally remains in effect through July 31, 2020, TSA notes that affected TWIC cards will remain valid for the full 180-day extension, even beyond July 31, based on the expiration date of the individual TWIC card. TSA cites two reasons for these extensions: 1) under COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, it is unwise or even prohibited to allow gatherings at TSA TWIC enrollment centers; and 2) it is in the public interest, “… given the need for transportation workers to continue to work without interruption during the current COVID-19 crisis.”
This is the latest example of federal agencies responding to directives to reduce costs by eliminating duplicative, redundant regulations.
The world of licensing, endorsement, exemption and identification documents and processes for professional drivers still remains broad and oftentimes confusing. A PrePass whitepaper walks through the various ID forms and formats a professional driver may presently need or may consider obtaining to preserve business opportunities in the future.
At least now, if a business opportunity or a need to transport coronavirus supplies or raw materials that are classified as hazmat arises, obtaining the required CDL endorsement will not necessitate a duplicative TSA background check for those drivers already holding a TWIC card and drivers who already have an HME or a TWIC have additional time to obtain a renewal.
This post was updated on April 15, 2020 to include information about the TWIC card extension for renewals.