Only 20 percent of port employees who will required by next year to have a Transportation Worker Identification Credential have enrolled in the biometric card program, and recent federal data on the program shows truck drivers are part of that lag.
As of June 6, the Transportation Security Administration showed 331,042 workers had enrolled out of the agency’s estimated 1.5 million who will be required to have a TWIC card by April 2009.
Among those workers enrolled were 33,264 truck drivers and 3,942 workers classified as “drayage truckers.”
TWIC enrollment is down, particularly among truck drivers, said Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist. Many drivers may be procrastinating because of TSA’s multiple deadline announcements and corrections, but drivers who go ahead and get their TWIC cards will have an advantage, he said.
“Drivers should not ignore this absolutely looming reality,” Rajkovacz told Land Line. “For those who take it seriously, there is likely to be more economic opportunity for them in the marketplace. As an industry, the vast majority of drivers have ignored that this is the coming reality in the nation’s ports.”
A TSA spokesman wouldn’t directly address whether enrollment figures have met expectations, but did respond to some e-mailed questions from Land Line.
“The TWIC program is progressing steadily and has opened more than 120 fixed enrollment centers and dozens of mobile sites nationwide,” TSA Spokesman Greg Soule wrote. “As all 147 enrollment centers open we expect enrollment numbers to increase significantly and have sufficient resources in place to enroll the estimated (1.5) million workers.”
TSA officials originally estimated 750,000 workers would need the TWIC card. They recently doubled that estimate to 1.5 million.
The security program requires that port employees, longshoremen, mariners, truckers and others who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports must have background checks before being issued TWIC cards with their biometric data and residency documentation.
Nationally, TWIC cards will be required for anyone who needs unescorted access into secure areas by April 15, 2009, although New England ports plan to require TWIC cards by Oct. 15 this year.
Eventually, TWIC cards could be an accepted standard for truckers to get into warehouses and trucking yards inland.
Standard TWIC enrollment costs $132.50, but workers with “current, comparable” threat assessment background checks such as hazmat endorsements, Merchant Mariner documents or Free and Secure Trade (FAST) cards may obtain a TWIC card for $105.25. The card is designed to last five years.
Replacement cards for those who lose or damage their TWIC card cost $60, according to the TWIC website at www.tsa.gov/twic.
The TWIC program has been ridiculed by politicians for missing repeated implementation deadlines and running up costs of more than $100 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
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