TWIC recount? Florida considers bill to cut redundant credentials

| 2/24/2009

Truckers who visit some Florida ports are asked to present three different port security credentials, costing them hundreds annually and untold hours spent to make appointments to apply and obtain security cards.

The Florida legislature, however, may be about to eliminate some of those redundancies.

The Florida Senate has submitted a bill for consideration that would allow ports to recognize the Transportation Worker Identification Credential rather than the Florida Seaport Security Act’s Florida Uniform Port Access Credential, or FUPAC. The law would allow ports to recognize TWIC as the security credential for truckers and other port workers to use rather than the state credential.

The bill was submitted by the Florida Senate’s Military Affairs and Domestic Security Committee, where it has remained without any action during any of the interim committee meetings. Florida’s full session begins the first week in March, and wraps up around the first of May.

A source close to the process said the purpose of the proposed legislation is to try and “relax some of the restrictions and align state and federal law more closely. The issue: How do you do that without absolving the state of their responsibility?”

FUPAC was implemented in 2004, as Florida waited for the federal government to implement TWIC.

It appears that the proposed legislation’s current language could allow ports to continue some form of local credentialing.

“A seaport may implement security measures that are more stringent, more extensive or supplemental to the minimum 55 security standards,” the bill reads.

Standard TWIC enrollment costs $132.50, although workers with “current, comparable” threat assessment background checks such as hazmat endorsements, Merchant Mariner Documents or Free and Secure Trade (FAST) cards may obtain a TWIC card for $105.25. The card is designed to last five years.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, entered many Florida ports during his near three-decade career as a truck driver. OOIDA submitted many comments during the TWIC regulatory process warning of duplicitous background checks and application fees.

To read OOIDA’s testimony from the hearing, click here.

Many local port security credentials such as FUPAC preceded TWIC, Rajkovacz said. Though well intentioned, they accomplish little and create more headaches for truck drivers, he said.

“Now that truckers have a TWIC card, it is simply unnecessary duplication of the security process,” Rajkovacz told Land Line. “The TWIC card is actually a better card than any port credential because it actually is vetted against a terrorism watch list, something that I doubt happens at the state level.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer