Congress votes tighter CDL rules for immigrants

Congress late last week sent to President Bush legislation (H.R. 4954) aimed at tightening port security, including provisions aimed at tightening the rules governing illegal residents working as truck drivers, as well as drivers that operate at ports.

The compromise version of H.R. 4954 includes the amendment proposed by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) requiring the Department of Transportation in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue regulations to implement recommendations of the DOT Office of Inspector General regarding verification of legal status and prevention of fraud in the CDL program. The inspector general had recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration require all CDL applicants to demonstrate that they are either a U.S. citizen, a permanent legal resident or otherwise legally present in the United States.

The Pryor-Talent language, which has been modified to give DOT an additional six months to implement its provisions, also requires DOT in cooperation with DHS to draft guidelines to improve compliance with federal immigration and customs laws in crossborder operations and to establish a system or process by which a carrier’s operating authority can be verified during a roadside inspection.

Another trucking-related provision, also in the Senate bill, requires threat assessment screening — including name-based checks against terrorist watch lists and immigration status check — for all port truck drivers who have access to secure areas of a port and who have a commercial driver’s license but do not have a current and valid hazardous materials endorsement. The assessment would be the same as the one the Coast Guard has ordered for port facility employees and longshoremen.

The Senate bill included several other trucking-related provisions that were not adopted in the final version of the bill.