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A U.S. Senate bill meant to facilitate online and mobile access for Transportation Security Administration background checks has been endorsed by American Trucking Associations.
While the Mobile Enrollment Act is designed to enhance remote enrollment capabilities for TSA’s PreCheck program, ATA suggested the measure’s provisions could be extended to include other programs.
ATA argued that during the pandemic, those TSA programs could include the Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential ( TWIC).
“The ability to enroll in these programs from a mobile device would yield significant efficiencies for drivers, especially those in rural areas,” ATA said in a Nov. 16 letter to the bill’s sponsors.
“The efficiencies afforded by the remote collection of biometric information from a mobile device would be particularly beneficial to the trucking industry as it continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic,” the federation also said in the letter to Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and John Thune of South Dakota, who introduced the bill this fall.
“The closure of TSA enrollment centers across the country has made it extremely difficult for truck drivers to apply for and renew their TWICs and HMEs. In some cases, there is only one TSA enrollment center within the entire state offering the services that truck drivers need to be compliant with federal law,” the letter also said.
Specifically, the bill would require TSA to coordinate with the Justice Department to evaluate the approval of a capability for remotely gathering biometric information via a mobile device. The bill also would direct TSA to ensure access to a multivendor secure end-to-end mobile enrollment tool. And, it would fast-track the implementation of such mobile capabilities.
The Mobile Enrollment Act was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, a panel with jurisdiction over trucking policy. In calling for its approval, the bill’s sponsors emphasized several potential benefits.
“This corrective legislation will get the TSA back on track to provide secure, user-friendly mobile enrollment options for rural Americans. It will also create opportunities for public and private entities to join forces in validating identity through mobile biometric capture,” Blackburn said in a recent statement. “The federal government needs to continue to adapt to the needs of the pandemic — and prioritizing access to government resources for rural Tennesseans will continue to be at the top of my list.”
Added Thune, “Creating a secure, fully mobile enrollment process greatly expands the accessibility of PreCheck for all Americans, making the traveling experience a little easier for the flying public.”
The HME program pertains to operators seeking a hazardous materials endorsement on a state-issued commercial driver license. TWIC is required for workers accessing secure areas at maritime facilities and vessels.
Relatedly, the Commerce Committee recently approved a bill designed to advance aviation safety improvements. The Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act would advance provisions stemming from lessons learned from the recent Boeing 737 MAX crashes.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the committee’s chairman, noted, “The committee’s approval of the bipartisan aviation safety bill is progress toward improving the certification process and enhancing accountability, especially as it relates to the manufacturing of passenger aircraft.”
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