SPECIAL REPORT: Background checks costly, unfair and won’t improve security

| 9/28/2006

Sept. 28, 2006 - OOIDA Senior Member Danny Schnautz of Pasadena, TX, delivered his message and plenty more to the members of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business Wednesday. The meeting focused on security and commerce at the nation's ports.

Schnautz wasted few words in pointing out problems with the current background check program. A recent policy change allows foreign drivers hauling hazmat into the United States to only have the cheaper FAST - Free and Secure Trade - background check, while U.S. drivers must undergo a more expensive Transportation Security Administration background check.

"The fact that a $50 existing credential has been approved by (the Department of Homeland Security) as sufficient for foreign drivers, and a $94 new credential is necessary for U.S. drivers, demonstrates something is very wrong with the efforts of DHS," Schnautz testified to committee members.

"The interests supporting cross-border traffic and foreign drivers must have more influence at DHS than U.S. drivers."

Schnautz also took to task another TSA proposal to charge hazmat endorsement holders - who have already paid for one background check - another $95 for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential background check just to haul in and out of ports.

"For a driver with a hazardous materials endorsement, TSA will already have a driver's previous application, the results of the attendant background checks and even the driver's fingerprints," Schnautz testified. "Why does TSA propose that drivers who need both credentials must apply for and pay for these functions twice?

To illustrate just how much these background checks can impact a small-business trucker's income, Schnautz referred to testimony of another OOIDA member, Michael Laizure.

In November 2005, Laizure told the subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland Security that he had to travel 340 miles round-trip from his home in Washington to the nearest facility that processed hazmat background check applications. The time spent on the road and completing the application process cost Laizure approximately $2,000 in lost gross income.

Schnautz told the committee members that with the potential for substantial lost income, the redundancy of the background checks and the costs associated with them, there will be many truckers who won't mess with getting the special endorsements or ID cards.

Beyond the cost and redundancy, Schnautz pointed out that the security standards are actually tougher on U.S. truckers than on foreign drivers.

"OOIDA believes that the concessions made to foreign persons entering the United States and entering our secure transportation facilities is the largest loophole in the proposed rules," Schnautz testified.

Schnautz said that the Association members question whether homeland security is really the focus of these rules when it appears American drivers face stricter rules and higher costs than foreign drivers.

"OOIDA and the truckers they represent want to support a robust national security, but they expect the federal government to implement regulations with some level of common sense and fairness," Schnautz testified.

- By Jami Jones, senior editor