Background checks hurting trucking industry
Nov 4, 2005 8:24 AM
The five-month-old hazardous materials truck driver background check implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is hurting the trucking industry by imposing higher operating costs and deterring drivers from obtaining hazmat endorsements, a trucking executive testified before Congress November 1.
Speaking on behalf of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Steve Russell, chairman and chief executive officer of Celadon Group Inc, said that while the trucking industry supports the security objective, the current background check program has been “marred by a number of bad decisions.”
Russell testified that TSA has constructed a process that applies to materials that pose no security risks and costs the industry nearly double what background checks for aviation workers cost.
The provision of the Patriot Act requiring commercial truck drivers with hazardous materials endorsements to their commercial drivers’ licenses to undergo more stringent background checks went into effect after May 31. The endorsement and the background check are required for drivers transporting not only explosives, but also non-threatening commodities like paint, nail polish, chewing gum extract, and soft drink syrup, according to ATA information.
The trucking industry currently has a driver shortage of 20,000 long-haul drivers at a time when freight volumes are increasing, and ATA members feel the background check provision will further exacerbate that shortage. By TSA’s own estimate, the background check will result in a loss of 20 percent of the hazmat-endorsed driver population.
ATA and its motor carrier members believe a sensible solution would be to target the background screening process to focus on hazardous materials that pose true security risks.
To see Russell's testimony, click here for the ATA Web site at truckline.com.
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