Truck fleet operators feel pinch of Patriot Act's stricter background checks of truck drivers

Published 9 January 2006

Trucks carrying hazardous material could be used as terror weapons, so DHS has imposed stricter requirements on these trucks’ drivers, but fleet operators complain it hurts business

Worried about the use of trucks as terror weapons, federal regulation was crafted to keep terrorists from wreaking havoc with trucks loaded with hazardous cargo. The regulation makes life difficult for Vermont fuel dealers and forcing others to bend the law. At issue is a requirement of the USA PATRIOT Act that now requires commercial drivers to undergo fingerprint-based criminal history record checks when applying for, renewing, or transferring the hazardous materials endorsements they need to haul commodities like gasoline, propane, and home heating fuel. The goal of the change, which went into effect almost a year ago, is laudable, according to Shane Sweet, executive vice president and director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers’ Association. Sweet said, however, that many dealers have waited longer than anticipated to obtain clearances to put qualified drivers on the road. “It’s kind of ridiculous,” he said of the “six to eight weeks” that it can take for fingerprints to travel from the Vermont Criminal Information Center in Waterbury to Washington, D.C., where they are inspected by officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before the results are e-mailed back to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

Since the change went into effect last February, 296 applications from Vermont truck drivers have been reviewed and approved, none have been rejected, and 48 are still being processed.

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