Turning TWICs: DHS issues final port security rule for truckers; cost pricey
WASHINGTON -- Trucker enrollment for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) is set to begin this March, according to the Department of Homeland Security's final rule on the program issued yesterday.
The controversial biometric I.D. program requires U.S. port workers, including truckers who access maritime facilities, to undergo further background checks before they are granted unescorted access to vessels, cargo containers, and secure areas.
The technology will be a Smart card containing the applicant's photograph and name, an expiration date, and a serial number. Also, an integrated circuit chip will store the holder's fingerprint template, a PIN chosen by the individual, and a cardholder unique identifier.
The checks -- which will impact more than 750,000 port employees, longshoreman, and truckers -- looks at criminal history records, terrorist watch lists, immigration status, and outstanding warrants. The process should take about 10 days to complete, authorities say.
Even truckers who already have completed redundant background checks must fork over additional cash for a TWIC card, which is valid for five years.
TWIC enrollment will reportedly cost truckers without a background check as much as $160 US. Drivers who have a comparable background credential, such as a hazmat endorsement -- or for Canadian drivers, a FAST card -- will still have to fork over between $107 and $127.
The exact price of the fee will be published soon.
It doesn't look as if the Canadian Trucking Alliance's repeated requests to allow the FAST card to be used in lieu of TWIC will be accepted at this time. CTA and the American Trucking Associations have argued that those truckers have already completed virtually identical security checks for the cross-border clearance program.
In November, the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined problems and key challenges of the program and determined TWIC needs more work.
Essentially, GAO discovered officials and stakeholders faced major challenges in addressing problems, including: Enrolling workers and issuing TWIC cards in a timely manner to a significantly larger population of workers than was done during testing; and ensuring that the TWIC technology, such as biometric card readers, works effectively in the maritime sector.
The program will initially be launched at a "small number of ports." Additional deployments will continue throughout the year at ports nationwide on a phased basis.