Background Checks Now Required for Hazmat Truck Drivers

As part of its Hazmat Threat Assessment Program, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now requires background information – fingerprints and biographical information – from applicants who wish to obtain a new Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) on their state-issued Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

The requirement, which became effective for new HME applicants on Jan. 31, allows drivers who wish to renew or transfer an existing HME to begin submitting biographical information and fingerprints with their HME application as early as March 31. For other drivers, the information will be required as of May 31. Background information will not be required of applicants or holders of a CDL who do not want an HME.

TSA implemented the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program to meet the requirements of the USA Patriot Act, which prohibits states from issuing a hazmat endorsement on a CDL without first determining whether or not an individual seeking to transport hazardous materials poses a security risk. TSA requires commercial drivers who seek to apply for, renew or transfer an HME on their state-issued CDL to undergo a security threat assessment, which includes a fingerprint-based FBI criminal history records check, an intelligence-related check and immigration status verification.

Under the rules governing the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program, applicants will be disqualified from holding an HME if they:

  • Have been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity in a military or civilian court for any of the permanently disqualifying crimes, which include murder; terrorism; espionage; treason; unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, manufacture, purchase, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, import, export, storage of or dealing in an explosive or explosive device; RICO violations (if the crime underlying the RICO conviction is on the list of permanently disqualifying crimes); a crime involving a transportation security incident (i.e., security incident involving a significant loss of life, environmental damage, transportation system disruption or economic disruption in a particular area); improper transportation of a hazardous material (minor infractions involving transportation of hazardous materials will not disqualify a driver; for instance, no driver will be disqualified for minor roadside infractions or placarding violations);
  • Have been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity in a military or civilian court within the past 7 years for a felony on the list of disqualifying crimes, which include assault with intent to murder; kidnapping or hostage taking; rape or aggravated sexual abuse; extortion; robbery; arson; bribery; smuggling; immigration violations; RICO violations; distribution of, possession with intent to distribute, or importation of a controlled substance; dishonesty, fraud or misrepresentation, including identity fraud (e.g., felony-level embezzlement, tax evasion, perjury, and false statements to the federal government); unlawful possession, use, sale, manufacture, purchase, distribution, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, delivery, import, export of or dealing in firearms or other weapons;
  • Have been released from prison within the past 5 years for any of the disqualifying crimes;
  • Are currently under want, warrant or indictment for a felony on the list of disqualifying crimes; or
  • Have been declared mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Individuals who undergo a TSA security threat assessment and receive notification that they are disqualified from holding an HME may appeal TSA's determination, or under some circumstances, request a waiver. More information is available about the waiver process on the Hazmat Waiver Guidelines page, which outlines how individuals who have been disqualified but still believe they should be able to hold an HME may submit a request for a waiver from the TSA.

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