SPECIAL REPORT: Carnahan bill seeks to limit background check fees

| 2/21/2007

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 - Truckers could pay a lot less for hazmat background checks if a new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law.

U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-MO, introduced HR1079, dubbed the Professional Driver Background Check Efficiency Act, on Feb. 15.

He introduced the bill because of the current hazardous materials background check procedures, which he said in a statement "cause professional drivers a substantial loss of time, income and out-of-pocket expenses."

The hazardous material endorsement required for professional drivers varies in cost, but is typically $94 per driver. This legislation would initiate a $50 cap.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was quick to throw its support behind the important piece of legislation and thank Carnahan for sponsoring the bill.

"On behalf of America's small business trucking professionals, I would like to convey our enthusiastic support for HR1079, Professional Drivers Background Check Efficiency Act," OOIDA President Jim Johnston wrote in a letter to Carnahan.

"In addition to defraying the excessive out-of-pocket costs associated with obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement, this legislation will compel the Transportation Security Administration to put together a much more efficient background check process than it currently operates and it will positively influence how future threat assessment procedures are designed by government agencies."

Johnston wrote in his letter that small-business truckers and professional drivers deal with a background check process that is "wrought with inefficiencies" that cause them unnecessary time and financial burdens.

He praised Carnahan's bill for attempting to put an end to the exorbitant costs of the background checks and for offering incentives for a clean-up of the inefficiencies in the TSA system.

This isn't the first time Carnahan has tackled the problems with the background check systems facing truckers.

This past year, Carnahan introduced HR5560, which intended to reduce the duplication and bureaucracy in background checks across federal agencies. Two of the provisions were signed into law as part of the SAFE Port Act.

As a result of the SAFE Port Act, drivers who have already undergone and passed a hazmat background check are not subject to an additional check and do not have to pay the full fee. 

Furthermore, the SAFE Port Act provides that 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.

"This is a classic example of unnecessary government redundancy. I am proud that two provisions of my previous bill have been signed into law, and I look forward to passing this bill to make government more efficient and reduce the financial burden placed on professional drivers," Carnahan said.