TWIC forces many truckers to go coastal – twice

| Monday, January 07, 2008

Robert Billard makes six or seven trips a year to ports in Texas, South Carolina and Georgia, then returns home to Colorado Springs, CO, with steel, lumber and other imports loaded onto his flatbed and 1998 Mack truck.

Billard, an OOIDA member, wants to enroll in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program to make his one-man, one-truck business more marketable. Unfortunately for Billard, he lives in one of a batch of states near the Rocky Mountains that are hundreds of miles from the nearest TWIC enrollment centers.

The TWIC program requires in-person enrollment, followed by a second appointment at the same location to personally pick up the biometric identification card. That single location requirement is a problem for owner-operators, who don’t often visit ports and don’t know which ports they’ll be visiting.

“Going to a center a thousand miles away and returning to the same center is not an economically feasible alternative,” Billard recently told Land Line. “Hell, I can go down to the post office to get my passport.”

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential program will require more than 750,000 port employees, longshoremen, mariners, truckers and others who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports to have background checks before being issued cards with their biometric data and residency documentation.

The program has been ridiculed by politicians for missing repeated implementation deadlines and running up costs of more than $100 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Transportation Security Administration isn’t likely to require TWIC cards nationally for several months, and must give the U.S. Coast Guard 90 days before they’re required. Eventually, TWIC cards could be an accepted standard for truckers to get into warehouses and trucking yards inland, and Billard figures they’ll be needed.

“I’m just waiting for the day when I get a load, and there on the load board it says, ‘needs TWIC card,’” Billard said. “Frankly, I don’t really want to get a TWIC card. But, I think the more qualifications you have to do things, the more competitive you are.”

The Transportation Security Administration is rolling out TWIC enrollment at a total of 147 ports across the nation, and plans to begin requiring TWIC cards on a region-by-region basis. TSA officials have publicly stated that the agency wants TWIC enrollment to be open at most ports for several months before workers would be required to carry the credential.

The fee for a TWIC card is $132.50, although workers who already have comparable background checks on record can obtain a TWIC card for $105.25.

It is possible for truckers or other workers to be escorted into a port’s secure areas if they choose not to obtain a TWIC card. Secure areas are determined at each individual port.

TWIC enrollment opened in early January at ports in Portland, OR, Jacksonville, FL, New Orleans, LA, Buffalo, NY, and Memphis, TN, and continues to expand throughout the country.

A full list of the scheduled port enrollments is available on the TWIC Web site at www.tsa.gov. Just click on the “Pre-Enrollment” link to see the most recent schedule.

For now, Billard says he’s not planning on enrolling in TWIC. He’d rather avoid driving hundreds of miles out of his way to an area that may or may not have sufficient truck parking.

Eventually, Billard knows he’ll see a load board stacked with better paying freight for TWIC cardholders.

“Right now I’m putting it on the back burner,” he said. “They just made it so hard.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

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