EXCLUSIVE: FAST talking with OOIDA and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves

| 8/21/2006

If FAST background checks are good enough for foreign hazmat drivers entering the U.S., then one similar background check should be all American drivers need, OOIDA officials recently told a congressman from Missouri.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, talked Friday with OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston and Executive Vice President Todd Spencer at the Grain Valley, MO, headquarters of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

After discussing the latest developments in biodiesel and alternative fuels, the conversation turned to a July 20 announcement by the Transportation Security Administration that foreign drivers who have successfully completed a Fast and Secure Trade - or FAST - background check now meet hazmat regulations for crossing into the U.S.

Spencer explained that American hazmat haulers pay more and jump through more hoops than foreign drivers do for the same driving privilege.

"Here, we have multiple levels and multiple fees for American drivers, and at the same time, we have simplicity and much lower cost for foreign drivers," Spencer said.

Graves agreed that the rising cost for background checks for American truckers is unfair.

"That just doesn't make any sense," Graves said.

"This stuff affects everybody. It has ramifications. It's going to increase the cost of whatever it is (consumers) are buying."

Spencer said OOIDA takes issue with the hoops and growing cost for American drivers. He asked Graves to consider sponsoring legislation to change it, and to stop the potential for cabotage by foreign drivers hauling on U.S. highways.

OOIDA furnished Graves with written materials to study the problem.

"If TSA thinks FAST is sufficient for foreign drivers, it's illogical that they shouldn't take the same position that it is adequate for American drivers," Spencer said following the meeting.

Spencer said he encourages truckers to talk to their lawmakers about the "inequities and layers of bureaucracy" TSA has for American drivers.

"There should be one background check for all truck drivers for security purposes," Spencer said. "One check, one fee."

- By David Tanner, staff writer