ESTIMATES of losses in the hazmat driver workforce could vary from 2% to 20% as a result of new regulations for driver fingerprinting and other background checks, according to information presented at the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) annual conference. But the situation indicates that whatever the final result, the hazmat driver pool will suffer.
Doug Bacon of Integrated Biometric Technology predicted fewer drivers would lose the hazmat endorsement while Richard Moskowitz of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) forecast a worsening problem for the already over-extended workforce. They made their comments at the NTTC meeting May 9-11 in Chicago IL.
Moskowitz predicted that about 20% of the driver force will be impacted by the regulation. Bacon said the current rejection rate is under 2%.
The deadline for beginning the checks for new commercial driver license hazardous materials endorsement applicants was January 31, 2005. The deadline was May 31, 2005, for CDL holders renewing their existing endorsements, as well as for CDL holders who wished to transfer their license and endorsement to another state and had not received a background records check.
Bacon said he anticipates an increase in hazmat driver pay will result in the pool growing despite the requirements of the new regulation.
“I predict more hazmat drivers in the future, not less,” he said. He added that background checks are a boon to carriers because they can ferret out unqualified drivers that the company otherwise might not know about.
Moskowitz said that ATA has moved its focus from litigation efforts to trying to influence legislation that can help ease carriers' plight.
(ATA made its case May 11 before the House Sub-committee on High-ways, Transit, and Pipelines. Daniel England, chief executive officer of C R England Inc representing ATA, told the congressional panel that the new rule “has created, and will continue to create, numerous problems for the trucking industry.”)
Moskowitz said that ATA contends that fingerprinting is ineffective in uncovering potential terrorists, and the background check fee of $94 is “ridiculously” expensive.
Licensing centers are inconveniently located; many states do not retain the fingerprints; there are extensive delays; and not all states recognize certification from other states. He added that some drivers are waiting as long as four to six weeks before receiving hazmat endorsements.
Bacon, whose company has been contracted by the government to conduct the investigations in several states, said the typical wait time averages about 15 days.
According to the Transportation Safety Administration, the agency overseeing the program, there are 2.7 million drivers now holding hazmat endorsements. The agency expects to receive a prorated total of 360,000 new and renewal applications in the first year after the January 31, 2005, deadline.
Drivers are required to renew hazmat endorsements every five years. The background check rule stems from security concerns after the United States was attacked by terrorists in 2001.
Moskowitz also argued that fingerprinting hazmat drivers will do little to improve security because the likelihood is small that terrorists' fingerprints will be on file for comparison.