The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is asking for public comments on its plan to allow states to collect more biographic and biometric information from commercial vehicle drivers applying for, renewing or transferring a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) to their commercial driver’s licenses (CDL). Comments on this Information Collection Request are due by June 7, 2021.

While more data in government hands may not seem attractive, TSA has coupled that request with streamlined application and renewal processes, and reduced costs, for many CDL holders.

TSA is trying to address past problems.

Motor carriers and professional drivers have labored for years to navigate the TSA regulations surrounding obtaining and renewing an HME and a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). In particular, obtaining the HME and the TWIC each require TSA to conduct a security threat analysis that pulls driver data and fingerprints provided under a number of federal regulations.

Legislation passed in 2018 and signed into law improved this process by allowing states to use an existing, valid TWIC as evidence that the required TSA security threat analysis had been conducted prior to issuing an HME.

Why TSA wants this data.

That simplified process offered a welcome step forward, but the word “allow” in the law became a stumbling block. The security requirements may be federal, but driver licensing is a state function. Not all states treat the HME and TWIC security threat analyses and processes as equivalent. To clear the path, TSA now seeks approval to allow states to collect biometric data, such as iris scans, photos and fingerprints, during the HME process to augment its “comparability” to the TWIC.

TSA also seeks this data to facilitate the enrollment of HME holders in the FBI Rap Back Service in states where a TSA contractor handles the data collection. The FBI uses Rap Back to monitor the criminal history of HME holders who later commit a disqualifying offense. In return, HME holders in those states will not be required to submit fingerprints – or to pay the fingerprinting fee – at the time of HME renewal.

Why this can be good for truckers.

TSA offers time and money savings through the proposed process. A new online HME application and renewal portal provided by TSA shows which states participate. For HME applicants in states which allow “comparability,” the standard application fee of $86.50 is reduced to $67.00 – plus drivers save the time of traveling to a TSA enrollment office.

Drivers who use this process to apply for or renew and HME could also save time at the airport. The security threat analysis for HME closely resembles that of the TSA PreCheck program. That means most CDL drivers who have a valid HME are eligible for the TSA PreCheck program at no cost and no extra enrollment. TSA PreCheck allows expedited security screening at U.S. airports.

TSA PreCheck is limited to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents. Active HME holders who obtained their HME via waiver from TSA are not eligible for PreCheck.

The CDL itself, even with an HME, will not grant access to the TSA PreCheck lane unless it is a REAL ID.