Supply Chain Coalition Presses Background Check Reform

ATA Among Backers of Eliminating Duplicative Process
Transportation worker at checkpoint
A transportation worker's credentials are checked as he enters Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia. (U.S. Coast Guard)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

A broad-based supply chain coalition is urging Congress to quickly pass legislation that would eliminate duplicative background security checks for truck drivers and other workers.

The legislation, known as the Transportation Security Screening Modernization Act, is aimed at creating efficiencies for the government and supply chain workers by creating a one-stop security background check process for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, Hazardous Materials Endorsement, and TSA PreCheck.

“Subjecting essential supply chain workers to the same exact background check multiple times to receive different credentials from the same agency does nothing to enhance security,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said. ATA was one of about 140 signatories on a letter sent to congressional leaders Dec. 6 — the day the legislation was introduced. The bill was modeled after similar legislation that has failed in recent years.

The new bill also would likely reduce fees for the credential process, supporters said.

“This [current]system only serves to pad government coffers by forcing truckers and other transportation workers to pay duplicative fees for a background check they’ve already cleared,” Spear added. “Congress should not allow the inefficiencies of government bureaucracy to impede the efficiency of our supply chain, especially at the expense of those hardworking men and women who keep our economy running.”

Chris Spear


Others signing the letter included trade associations representing trucking, rail, energy, organized labor, agriculture, third-party logistics providers and other supply chain stakeholders.

“This redundancy is costly and wasteful, and the applicants are forced to pay duplicative fees to the same agency for the same background check they’ve already cleared,” the letter said. “The entire supply chain is in lockstep that this credentialing issue needs to be fixed, which the bipartisan Transportation Security Screening Modernization Act would do.”

The bill, H.R. 5840, is the most recent attempt to ease credentialing hassles for essential workers such as truck drivers, pipeline operators, longshore workers and warehouse managers, among many others, who must obtain the credentials as a condition of employment.

A Look Back

The issue of duplicate credential requirements has been an ongoing issue for years:

2007: The Government Accountability Office recommended that the Department of Homeland Security coordinate its background check programs and harmonize programs that require the same background check.

2019: DHS tasked an analysis group with assessing the security value of the TWIC program. The resulting recommendation was for DHS to allow applicants to apply valid background checks to multiple TSA-managed credentialing programs to reduce costs and hassle for users.

Given that about 21% of the total hazmat population and 12% of the total TWIC population carry both credentials, the ability to obtain multiple credentials at the same time for a single fee would reduce costs for hundreds of thousands of critical infrastructure workers, the letter said.

To further provide flexibility to industry, homeland security researchers recommended that DHS and its components expand reciprocity between federally issued credentials and benefit programs.

“I’ve heard from many transportation workers in my district who have had to spend a significant amount of time and money to keep their required credentials up to date,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), a sponsor of the bill. “The legislation we introduced would create a more streamlined application and renewal process, reducing unnecessary hurdles for transportation workers, a crucial workforce in our economy.”

“Ridiculous regulations and red tape have crushed America’s supply chain workers,” said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), another of the bill’s sponsors. “We need to expedite the time it takes to put an essential worker into our workforce, not requiring people to stand in line for security credentials only to have them get back in line to obtain a redundant background check for another TSA credential.”

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: