Transportation Worker Identification Credential Program

On January 25, 2007, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard published the Final Rule requiring maritime workers and certain other persons to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Begun as a response to the 9/11 attacks, the TWIC program is designed to beef up security in American ports and in other modes of transportation. Though the program is still in its infancy, it significantly affects drivers and carriers of hazardous materials.

The TWIC program implements maritime security laws enacted in 2002 and 2006. The laws require merchant mariners and workers with unescorted access to secure areas of vessels and port facilities, including truck drivers, to undergo a background check, referred to as a “security threat assessment,” and receive a TWIC card. The TWIC is a smart card, using biometric technology to capture and securely hold information about the holder. Without the card, drivers will not be allowed to travel into and throughout ports unless they are accompanied by a Transportation Security Administration employee.

The new regulation applies the background check standards used for commercial drivers with Hazardous Materials Endorsements to merchant mariners and other workers with unescorted access to ports. Cards will be denied to drivers who are in the United States illegally or lack a certain immigration status, have connections to terrorist activity, lack mental capacity or have been convicted of certain crimes. Drivers convicted of improper transportation of a hazardous material will be permanently disqualified from obtaining a TWIC card.

Persons required to have a TWIC card must enroll at a location designated by the TSA and the Coast Guard. These locations will be both fixed and mobile. Applicants will be allowed to “pre-enroll” to help speed the application process. The fee to obtain a card will be $137.25. Drivers with Free and Secure Trade (FAST) cards or Commercial Driver’s Licenses with Hazardous Materials Endorsements will pay a reduced fee of $105.25. The credential will be valid for five years.

Although the rule became effective on March 26, 2007, enrollment has been delayed. This spring, the Transportation Security Administration acknowledged it may miss a July 1 deadline to issue TWIC cards to workers at ten U.S. ports. The Coast Guard will publish TWIC compliance dates for each port in the Federal Register at least 90 days before compliance must begin. As of press time, no schedule has been published by the Coast Guard for implementation at any port.

While facility and vessel owners and operators must notify their employees of the requirement to obtain a TWIC, they are not required to notify vendors, contractors and truck drivers. GAWDA members and their drivers can obtain information on the enrollment schedule by calling the TWIC Program Help Desk at 1-866-DHS-TWIC (1-866-347-8942), checking the Federal Register for Coast Guard notices, or monitoring the TSA’s TWIC Web site.

The program has generated criticism for requiring redundant credentials and background checks for commercial drivers. Many CDL drivers undergo background checks as a matter of course, and a number of private entities and other government facilities require drivers seeking access to obtain a credential after undergoing a background check. For example, a number of military facilities have implemented the RapidGate system, and Conrail recently announced the implementation of the e-RAILSAFE program, which will require vendors entering Conrail property to obtain a credential after completing a background check.

While the Department of Homeland Security seems to recognize the need to reduce redundancy, motor carriers and drivers may be required to obtain a number of different cards for access to different facilities at least for the near future. Nevertheless, the impact of the TWIC regulation for GAWDA members may not be as great as other motor carriers because most of their drivers have CDLs with HMEs. Those drivers are familiar with the background check requirements and must undergo those checks to obtain the HME anyway.

The primary impact on GAWDA members and drivers will be in determining when and where the TWIC card is needed, and then completing the application process to obtain the card. Members should monitor the TSA and Coast Guard Web sites and stay in contact with port officials to determine when compliance will begin at ports they serve. Drivers should also take advantage of lower fees for HME holders and participate in the pre-enrollment process when possible to ensure that all necessary documentation is in place prior to going to an enrollment center.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
GAWDA Government Affairs and Human Resources Legal Consultant Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq., is president of Richard P. Schweitzer, PLLC, in Washington, D.C. Members can reach him at 202-223-3040 and at rpschweitzer@rpslegal.com.