At an event sponsored by
the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA)
in Washington Dec. 7-8, representatives of the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration (FMCSA) answered many questions raised by
jurisdictions on the upcoming rule on hazmat endorsements.
FMCSA is soon issuing an
interim final rule to implement Section 1012 of the U.S.A.Patriot
Act, which prohibits states from issuing hazmat endorsements until
a background check is completed. While it became a public law Oct.
26, 2001, this new requirement could not be implemented without
a U.S. DOT rulemaking. The FMCSA advised states to continue to renew
old and issue new CDLs under their usual procedures and went to
work fast-tracking an interim final rule. John Grimm, the agency's
Office Director of Safety Programs, says that rule will be issued
in mid-January and be in effect by April 1. It will require all
new applicants for a CDL with hazmat endorsement,and renewals, to
pass a criminal background check to determine if the driver poses
a security risk.
How will it work? Grimm says
an applicant will go to the DMV, be tested and then be directed
to the local police department. There, the driver will request to
be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check. The check
will actually be done by the Department of Justice. The DOJ will
forward the information to the Department of Transportation for
analysis. If the applicant is not determined to be a "security
risk" the DOT will notify the DMV with a "yes." Grimm
says it will be a "yes, no" or maybe a "we don't
know yet." If the background check reveals information that
requires further investigation, the DMV will be notified. Criteria
for what is considered a driver who is a "security risk"
has not been finalized.
How long will all this take?
Grimm said it could take approximately two months fora driver to
renew or get the hazmat endorsement on a new CDL. He indicated nearly
a third of all CDLs currently have hazmat endorsements.
What about the cost? Grimm
says the fingerprinting will cost about $25 and the background check
will cost $25 or maybe more. Who'll pay? In the case of a company
driver, he said, perhaps the motor carrier will pay. In the case
of an owner-operator, no doubt it will come out of the o-o's
If the applicant is turned
down, can't he just go to another state and apply? Grimm says
the results are submitted to the CDLIS data base as "turned
down "for the hazmat endorsement. If the driver applies in
another jurisdiction, the CDLIS check will reveal the turned down
If a driver is turned down,
what about due process of law? Grimm says if the applicant is turned
down or the DOT tells the DMV "we don't know yet"
then a follow up procedure will be in place to assure the driver
of fair treatment under the law.
Drivers from Canada and
Mexico seeking hazmat endorsements will also undergo the same background
check procedures, says Grimm, subject to negotiations under the
NAFTA. Details are yet to be worked out, he said. He indicated that
one of the areas concerns whether or not the U.S. DOT will "simply
accept" an assurance from Canadian or Mexican governments that
a thorough background check has been completed.