ATA proposes clearinghouse for background checks

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The American Trucking Associations last month told Congress that it is willing to act as a clearinghouse for criminal background checks, using FBI databases, of truck drivers that haul freight to and from U.S. ports.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress passed legislation calling for criminal background checks of all commercial drivers with hazardous material endorsements. Subsequent legislation has tightened security for drivers with access to U.S. seaports, many of which were closed immediately after the attacks. The Department of Transportation is currently developing the process by which the background of hazmat drivers would be checked.

In testimony delivered on ATA’s behalf before a House subcommittee Feb. 13, Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express, said that changes to security procedures in several states had made it difficult for carriers to haul freight to and from ports. Byrd proposed a single identification card for port workers and truck drivers for all U.S. ports, and suggested that an industry group like ATA be given the responsibility of screening driver backgrounds through the FBI’s criminal database.

“Under the ATA proposal, my company could channel the fingerprints of a potential employee to the FBI through the designated entity,” Byrd told the House Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. ATA has suggested it should be the designated entity. “The government could check those prints against any database it desires, but only the results of the check against the FBI criminal history record databases would be provided to us.”