OOIDA files comments on worker ID program

| 7/7/2006

Driver expenses, lax requirements for foreign drivers and privacy issues are just a few of the problems with the proposed Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

That’s the word from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in comments filed July 6.

In comments submitted to the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, OOIDA officials voiced strong disagreement with several key elements of the program, which proposes to issue biometric identification cards to 750,000 workers, including truck drivers, at ports across the nation.

Specifically, OOIDA officials took issue with the additional financial burden that would be placed on truckers if the program is implemented as it now stands. The program proposes a fee of up to $139, paid for by the person applying for the card.

In addition, it was pointed out in the comments that the TWIC background check process duplicates a background check already in place for haulers of hazardous materials.

“Why does DHS propose that drivers who need both credentials … apply for and pay for these functions twice?” Association officials asked in the comments.

The Association urged DHS to reduce costs by improving the data collection process and introduce mobile data collection facilities.

Another area of concern was that the TWIC program allowed too many loopholes for foreign drivers while clamping down especially hard on drivers who are U.S. citizens. For example, the proposed rules state that foreign vessels and the workers on them are exempt from the TWIC program.

The program also states that foreign drivers who participate in the FAST system – another identification designed to speed up crossings at U.S. borders – will be deemed equivalent to the TWIC card. However, according to the Association’s comments, the program does not specify whether that means FAST credentials will be acceptable in lieu of a TWIC card.

Concern was expressed in the comments that the TWIC program might lead to increased instances of cabotage by not requiring drivers coming from foreign countries to prove they are headed to a secure transportation facility or port.

Privacy issues and criminal records were other areas of concern. In the comments, Association officials criticized the lack of details on how background information would be collected and voiced concerns that information may be used by employers to effectively blackball employees who are denied a TWIC card because of an arrest record.

Association officials also requested that DHS be forthcoming in the qualifying process for choosing third-party contractors to handle the TWIC program and urged the department to use fingerprints as the biometric identifier on the cards.

By Terry Scruton, senior writer