The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published an interim final rule (IFR) effective today that prohibits states from issuing, renewing, transferring or upgrading a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a hazardous-materials endorsement without having had a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) threat assessment conducted on the applicant.

The IFR also requires that states notify hazmat drivers at least 60 days before their CDL or hazmat endorsement expires that they must undergo the TSA threat assessment background check in order to renew their endorsement. States must also inform drivers that they can initiate the threat-assessment process anytime after they receive the notice, but at least 30 days before the license or endorsement expires.

The FMCSA IFR is consistent with an IFR published by TSA on Nov. 24, 2004, concerning fingerprint-based background checks for CDL applicants seeking a hazmat endorsement.

The full text of the regulation can be found in the Federal Register for April 29, [RIN 2126-AA70].

“It’s a technical amendment to bring the FMCSA regs in compliance with TSA’s,” Cliff Harvison, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers Assn., told Fleet Owner.

As of Jan. 31, 2005, drivers seeking first-time hazmat endorsements are required to undergo the threat-assessment process. Drivers seeking to renew their endorsements will have to do the same before those expire, starting on May 31.

So far, the threat assessment program has been inconsistent, according to Harvison.

“For the states where the process is controlled by IBT (an independent contractor), in general the entire process for new applicants seem to be going rather smoothly,” Harvison said. “We’re talking about a 7- to 10-day timeframe from the time the process begins to when the driver gets the finished product. However, states that opt not to have a contractor appear to be rather chaotic [in their process], with some carriers reporting the process takes between 30 and 60 days.”

This could leave a small cushion between when they receive the result of the threat assessment and the expiration of their endorsement in the non-IBT states. “The states are authorized to give the driver a temporary license so the driver can continue driving until the process is complete,” Harvison said. “If the state doesn’t choose this option, the driver can’t haul hazmat loads.”

Bob Inderbitzen, National Private Truck Council’s director of safety & compliance, advises carriers to take a proactive stance on getting drivers to start the process. He noted that some states don’t have enough locations to collect fingerprints, forcing some drivers to go to other states, while some carriers have complained that the process could take up to 90 days.

“If anyone waits to get close to the end of that expiration time, then they’re too late,” Inderbitzen said. “We’re telling our members not to wait 30 days [before expiration] because the process could last longer.”

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