Missouri Congressman Russ Carnahan has introduced a bill that could provide professional truckers with relief from high fees mandated by the USA Patriot Act.
Carnahan, a Democrat representing Missouri’s 3rd District in and around St. Louis, introduced the Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act of 2006 – HR5560 – in early June. It would establish that:
- Any fee collected in connection with a hazardous material background check should be no higher than $50 per individual;
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is authorized to reimburse states for any costs incurred in connection with a background check;
- A driver who has already undergone and passed a hazmat background check should not be subject to a redundant check nor have to pay an additional fee; and
- The Government Accountability Office should report to Congress on background checks similar to the hazardous material endorsement background check, identify any duplicity within the systems and make recommendations for increasing efficiencies across and within agencies.
In the following interview, Carnahan provides additional details.
LL: What will the Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act do to substantially reduce additional burdens and lost wages for drivers?
CARNAHAN: While we must ensure that those transporting potentially dangerous material will not cause harm to the public, hardworking American drivers should not have to bear the entire burden of financing this program.
The Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act requires that any fees charged be limited to $50 per individual, thus, reducing a portion of this tremendous burden that has been placed on drivers.
LL: How will the act alleviate the present situation of what has become an unfunded mandate for the individual states?
CARNAHAN: TSA believes that it lacks legal authority to share fees collected for the driver assessment program with state driver’s licensing agencies. The Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act clarifies that TSA may reimburse states for costs incurred in connection with the background checks.
LL: Preventing duplicative background checks and fees is foremost to truck drivers, so how does your legislation address these needs?
CARNAHAN: The Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act would clarify that a driver who has already undergone and passed an HME background check should not be subject to a redundant check nor have to pay an additional fee.
LL: In what ways will the federal government be encouraged to establish the kind of efficiencies that prove beneficial to truck drivers?
CARNAHAN: In light of the current situation, the Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act requires the Government Accountability Office to provide an analysis and recommendations to Congress on improving efficiencies across multiple assessment programs.
In addition, the Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act caps hazmat fees in an effort to put pressure on the Transportation Security Administration to prioritize the integration of background check systems and improve efficiency. As is, TSA can continue to charge to recover wasteful spending.