Feds finally make TWIC rule official

| 1/25/2007

Thanks to a new credentialing program, hauling freight in and out of secure port areas just got more expensive.

Truckers - as well as all port workers - at U.S. ports need to be ready to fork over some serious change starting in March for their Transportation Worker Identification Credential, even if they already have a hazardous materials endorsement background check to their credit.

The final rule outlining the program - dubbed the TWIC program - was finally published in the Federal Register Thursday, Jan. 25. The rule was unveiled by the Transportation Security Administration on Jan. 1, but took more than three weeks to become official.

The program is designed to enhance port security by checking the backgrounds of workers before they are granted unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and ships.

Truckers who already face numerous, redundant, expensive background checks won't be getting much of a break at all in the cost for applying for a TWIC card.

The credential and background check will cost applicants between $139 and $159. For truckers who have a comparable background check, such as the hazmat endorsement background check, the credential will be discounted only slightly to somewhere between $107 and $127.

"The exact amount of the fee will be established and published once an enrollment support contract is finalized in early 2007," a government press release stated.

Various media outlets - including The Associated Press and the Washington Post - are reporting that Lockheed Martin has been awarded the contract, according to insider sources. A TSA spokeswoman told Land Line Magazine that an official announcement had not been made and could not confirm those published reports.

Lockheed Martin has been awarded several security contracts with the government over the years - including some awarded by former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. Before being appointed secretary of transportation by President Bill Clinton, Mineta served as vice president of Lockheed Martin.

The background checks will be required of more than 750,000 port employees, longshoremen, mariners, truckers and others who require unescorted access to secure areas of the ports.

TWIC applicants will undergo a comprehensive background check that looks at criminal history records, terrorist watch lists, immigration status and outstanding wants and warrants.

The final rule outlines disqualifying crimes, enrollment process, usage procedures, fees and other requirements, according to the press release from the Department of Homeland Security.

TWIC enrollment will begin in March, initially at a small number of ports. The program will be phased in nationally throughout the year.

Workers will be notified of when and where to apply before the start of the enrollment period in their given area.

- By Jami Jones, senior editor