With the Houston Gulf Coast area reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ike, testimony September 17 before a House subcommittee noted the importance of a single access credential for truck drivers who respond to emergencies.

Phil Byrd, president and chief executive officer of Bulldog Hiway Express, Charleston SC, testified on behalf of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) on the status of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). He made his remarks before the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

According to an ATA press release, he told the subcommittee that the trucking industry is primarily responsible for transporting relief supplies into areas affected by a natural disaster. "Relief efforts required by Hurricane Katrina, Gustav, and most recently Ike serve as reminders of the critical role that trucking plays in responding to these emergencies," he said. "The timing of this hearing coincides with one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent memory.

"Truck drivers transporting and providing relief supplies face challenges in accessing disaster areas due to differing federal, state, and local access control policies. Such challenges were evident during our response to Katrina. But the recent relief efforts in response to Gustav, though of a much smaller scale, allowed DHS (Department of Homeland Security) agencies to coordinate access protocols with state and local officials. The standards established under the access protocols recognized the TWIC as a valid access credential. If each state and local government established separate access control protocols, our industry’s ability to respond and provide relief supplies to areas affected by such disasters would be greatly diminished."

Byrd urged the subcommittee and the Committee on Homeland Security as a whole, to support the SAFE Truckers Act of 2008 and to require the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to immediately recognize US commercial drivers who possess a TWIC as already compliant with the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Security Threat Assessment program, as allowed by statute and as TSA already does for Canadian and Mexican commercial drivers.

He called for use of the TWIC as the single, universally accepted security credential for transportation workers by preempting other security and access control credentials required of motor carriers that operate in multiple jurisdictions.

"At a time when the public and private sectors alike have limited resources, our security efforts must be focused on the most significant risks," he testified. "The imposition of burdensome, costly duplicative security programs governing the transportation of hazmat, such as the hazmat background check program, threatens to erode the industry’s ability to continue to deliver the goods that the consumer expects.

"It is important to highlight the fact that although only drivers transporting Security Sensitive Materials (SSM) will be required to get a TWIC and thus undergo a fingerprint-based security treat assessment, all hazardous materials endorsement holders, regardless, will undergo a periodic name-based background check. By determining what hazmat truly poses a significant risk and not requiring a fingerprint-based threat assessment for drivers transporting non-threatening hazmat commodities, Congress will be eliminating many of the costs and burdens imposed by the USA Patriot Act while still strongly promoting and protecting homeland security."

Byrd's entire testimony can be viewed on the ATA Web site.

View complete Hurricane Ike coverage from Bulk Transporter and its sister publications at Penton Media