Old hazmat deadline going, going - almost gone

Beginning Nov. 3, 2003, the Transportation Security Administration was to require fingerprint-based background checks for drivers renewing CDLs with hazmat endorsements — and for drivers seeking to get a hazmat endorsement.

It appears, however, the deadline will be delayed.

“Even if the deadline were to be delayed six months, that would be an optimistic time frame,” according to a spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. “There are 51 jurisdictions out there that need uniform procedures.”

“We’ve had ongoing meetings with TSA about how to implement this process, and we’ve been told TSA is working on an amendment to delay the date,” another AAMVA spokesman said. “However, we don’t yet know what the new date will be.”

Meanwhile, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Annette Sandberg told Land Line she didn’t know the new deadline either — but also said TSA is currently writing regulations on the fingerprint process.

TSA’s regulations would tell the states what TSA expects to know from them — and how the information would be collected. However, TSA has no enforcement authority over the CDL process, which means FMCSA will have to write its own set of rules after TSA writes theirs.

Meanwhile, AAMVA petitioned TSA to delay implementation due to logistical challenges that must be met before such a program can be effectively deployed on a uniform basis nationwide.

For example, where must truckers go to be fingerprinted? If it’s to be at the local motor vehicle department, who will pay for the scanning equipment in states where there’s no fingerprint technology?

TSA is reportedly asking states to give drivers a 120-day notice before their current endorsement expires. Those whose endorsements expire soon after Nov. 3 should continue to check with the local DMV to see what “sunset” provisions apply.

Name-based checks
On May 5, FMCSA published rules state agencies must follow to permit drivers to retain a hazmat endorsement on a CDL.

Beginning Sept. 2, 2003, drivers qualified to hold hazmat-endorsed CDLs must meet the following standards: be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; have no disqualifying criminal offenses; not be mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution; and not be assessed by TSA as posing a threat of terrorism, to national security or to transportation security.

Along those lines, TSA performed name-based background checks on all hazmat-endorsed CDL holders. That means TSA got the names of all drivers who hold hazmat-endorsed CDLs from state motor vehicle departments. Drivers didn’t have to do anything for this to happen.

However, if TSA says a driver failed to meet the criteria for retention of the endorsement, the driver must appeal or ask for a waiver. TSA will tell drivers how to appeal or ask for a waiver as part of a mailed notice. If TSA doesn’t grant an appeal or waiver, the local motor vehicle department will be notified to withdraw the driver’s endorsement.

—by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at