SPECIAL REPORT: TSA extends fingerprint deadline for hazmat drivers

| 3/11/2004

The Transportation Security Administration has extended the deadline by which states must implement regulations requiring truck drivers with hazmat endorsements to be fingerprinted.

That could be good news – however, some worry about plans still under consideration that could involve private companies – such as members of Natso, which represents truck stops and travel plazas, the American Trucking Association and USIS (which has acquired DAC Services) – in the collection and dissemination of private information.

For example, Jack Legler, director of security and operations for ATA, quoted in The Memphis Business Journal,said, “The ATA’s national plan would basically put fingerprint stations in locations convenient for truckers, like truck stops and travel plazas, and those stations would act as an information channeling agent to the federal government.”

TSA spokeswoman Andrea Fuentes told Land Line, “We’re working with stakeholders and lobbyists on this issue. The agency is in constant communication and is keeping an open line.”

Meanwhile, OOIDA plans to communicate with TSA too.

"We're extremely concerned about the security of the information drivers would have to provide to these private companies," OOIDA President Jim Johnston said. "When you give a fingerprint, you've also got to provide a lot of other information. For example, what driver would want a truck stop employee jotting down a CDL number, which is often the same as a Social Security number, and other information?"

An informal online discussion of several OOIDA members suggest that most would prefer to be fingerprinted in their own community, which would benefit from related fees. Most want to go to either the local sheriff’s office or the department of motor vehicles.

Others worry about identity theft, and add that it’s preposterous to expect truck stop workers, many of whom can’t keep fuel islands running properly, to handle fingerprinting.

TSA’s decision

TSA had extended an old Nov. 3, 2003, deadline to April 1, 2004. But now TSA tells Land Line that if states need more time, they must request an extension before April 1. That request would give states until Dec. 1, 2004, to comply.

The Patriot Act calls on the Department of Homeland Security to fingerprint the nation’s hazmat drivers and provide those fingerprints to the FBI’s national data bank. States must submit a plan outlining the fingerprint process consistent with the FBI’s collection and submission procedures – but most states have not done this because TSA has provided little guidance, according to press accounts.

As reported by Land Line, TSA could end up approving plans that would let truck stops conduct the fingerprinting. This potentially would involve the American Trucking Association and other groups.

Burger, fries, coke and fingerprints

Meanwhile, William Fay, Natso’s president and CEO, told Land Line his organization’s goal is to “make it easier on truckers. We’re very patriotic, just like truckers, but we don’t want to appear to be their Big Brother.” Natso represents about 1,100 truck stop and travel plaza facilities.

A January Natso press release says the group has been "meeting regularly with TSA leadership and trucking association executives about this issue.”

Fay confirmed discussions with TSA, saying he’s been told by TSA officials, “We would like to see truck stops involved in the fingerprinting effort.”

Natso anticipates a partnership with the National Air Transportation Association and the trucking industry to establish truck stops and travel plazas as fingerprint collection points for truckers. NATA would provide the technology required to fingerprint truckers, while Natso members would be paid a fee for each fingerprint collected from the nation’s hazmat truckers.

The cost to an owner-operator, according to Fay, would be less than $100. Natso will soon announce the location of a pilot program at a Pennsylvania stop where three employees have been trained to take the fingerprints and send them to FBI officials.

"I don't see this as a profit center - we'll make a little bit of profit," Fay told Land Line, even though a January press release quotes Fay as saying, “From an economic standpoint, this new profit center will bring increased foot-traffic and create an additional profit center to operators.”

Meanwhile, Fay told Land Line, “You guys (OOIDA members) are our customers, and we want to keep you happy. We’ll need a fee, and we want it to be enough to recover our costs.”

--by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at dick_larsen@landlinemag.com.