The approximately 3.5 million commercial drivers with hazardous material endorsements now will be required to undergo a routine background records check, according to information from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The rule, which goes into effect May 5, does not apply to applicants for commercial driver licenses (CDLs) without a hazmat endorsement. If disqualified from hazmat, drivers may continue to transport all non-hazardous cargo.
CDL applicants will be subject to a name-based FBI criminal history records check and a check of federal databases. Beginning in 180 days or less, current drivers applying to renew or transfer their hazmat endorsement, as well as all new applicants must provide fingerprints. After 180 days, no state may issue, renew, or transfer a hazmat license unless the TSA has notified the state that the individual holding the endorsement does not pose a security threat.
The check will includes a review of criminal, immigration, and FBI records. Any applicant with a conviction (military or civilian) for certain violent felonies over the past seven years, or who has been found mentally incompetent, will not be permitted to obtain or renew the hazmat endorsement. The checks also will verify that the driver is a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
The rule provides an appeal process for cases in which the database information is incorrect to ensure that no driver loses the hazmat endorsement due to inaccurate records. Also, drivers who committed a disqualifying offense, were found to be mentally incompetent, or were committed to a mental institution may apply for a waiver if they prove that they are rehabilitated and capable of transporting hazmat safely.
Disqualifying crimes include acts of terrorism, murder, assault with intent to murder, espionage, sedition, kidnapping or hostage taking, treason, rape or aggravated sexual abuse, extortion, robbery, arson, bribery, smuggling, and immigration violations.
Also unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive, explosive device, firearm or other weapon; distribution of, intent to distribute, possession, or importation of a controlled substance; dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud; crimes involving a severe transportation security incident; improper transportation of a hazardous material; or conspiracy or attempt to commit any of these crimes.
In addition, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) companion rule amends the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to prohibit states from issuing, renewing, transferring, or upgrading a commercial driver license (CDL) with a hazmat endorsement, unless TSA has first conducted a background records check of the applicant and determined that the applicant does not pose a security risk warranting denial of the hazmat endorsement.
FMCSA is also requiring states to establish a hazmat endorsement renewal period of at least five years to insure that each holder of a hazmat endorsement routinely and uniformly receives a security screening. The five-year renewal cycle was established in close coordination with TSA, based on its security risk determination requirements.
Another rule of the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) clarifies the regulatory authority for hazmat products, including explosives in transportation, to make clear that DOT regulations address security risks associated with such transportation. Shippers and transporters of hazmat must comply with the security regulations of TSA, FMCSA, and the Coast Guard, which are being incorporated into DOT’s hazmat regulations. RSPA recently issued a final rule that requires shippers and transporters of hazmat to implement plans and training to enhance security.