Come November, getting a commercial drivers license (CDL) with a hazardous materials endorsement will be a whole lot harder. All applicants will have to pass a government background check under an interim final rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That rule, which amends the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, prohibits states from issuing, renewing, transferring or upgrading a CDL with a hazardous materials endorsement until the Transportation Security Administration has first conducted a background records check and determined that the applicant does not pose a security risk. The rulemaking was required by the USA Patriot Act, passed in 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Department of Transportation says that under a companion rule issued by the Transportation Security Administration, the roughly 3.5 million commercial drivers who currently hold the hazardous material endorsements now will also be required to under go a routine background check that includes a review of criminal, immigration and FBI records. Any applicant with a conviction (military or civilian) for certain violent felonies over the past seven years or who has been found mentally incompetent will not be permitted to obtain or renew the hazmat endorsement. The checks must verify that the driver is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident as required by the USA Patriot Act as well.
The FMCSA is also requiring states to establish a hazmat endorsement renewal period of at least five years to ensure that each holder of a hazmat endorsement routinely receives a security screening.
According to the National Industrial Transportation League, the FMCSA will accept comments on the rule, which does not affect applicants for a CDL without the hazmat endorsement, until July 7. State compliance with the rule must take place by Nov. 3 of this year. To comment on the FMCSA rule, visit dmses.dot.gov/submit. The docket number of the rule, which must be included in comments, is FMCSA-2001-11117. The entire rule can be viewed on the FMCSA Web site, www.fmcsa.dot.gov.