18 June 2003 23:41 [Source: ICIS news]
PHILADELPHIA (CNI)--An impending federal deadline for antiterrorism background checks of all hazardous materials (hazmat) truck drivers may disrupt a major part of US chemical cargo traffic later this year, a trucking authority said here Wednesday.
Cliff Harvison, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers trade group, told the first annual Chemical Security Summit (CSS) here today that the US trucking industry and state-level driver licensing agencies cannot hope to meet the 3 November deadline that the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has set. On that date the US is to begin far more detailed background checks for license renewals for truck drivers qualified to haul hazardous materials cargoes.
Beginning that date, Harvison noted, all truckers seeking new or renewal hazmat licenses will have to undergo a fingerprint-based background check by the federal government. State driver licensing agencies are supposed to receive drivers' fingerprints and relay them to the TSA in Washington, DC, but Harvison said that many state licensing agencies are unaware of the obligation.
Even those state officials working to be ready for the new procedure say they cannot absorb the expected workflow until late next year at the earliest, he said.
The new licensing background requirement by TSA, a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), grew out of the fact that several of the terrorists who carried out the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, had valid hazmat trucker licenses. Other authorities speaking at the CSS conference have warned that a truck-bomb attack is the most likely scenario for further terrorist attacks in the US.
Harvison said few state-level employees have been trained to handle the additional paperwork and fingerprint records, and the TSA has yet to provide "form and manner" regulations governing how the fingerprinting is to be done. For example, he said, TSA has not specified whether the fingerprinting should be digital or ink-and-paper.
For these and other reasons, Harvison said his trade group will soon join with other transportation associations and commercial tank truck firms to ask the TSA to postpone the 3 November deadline. He said that in a recent meeting with TSA officials he found the TSA officials "receptive" to a postponement.
If the deadline is not extended, Harvison said, the resulting logjam of hazmat driver license renewals will cause a disruption in the movement of chemical product later this year.
Harvison noted that tanker trucks account for about 40% of US inter-city chemical freight volume.
Co-sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (Socma), the three-day CSS concludes tomorrow.
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