Commercial driver licensees face new federal requirements for transporting hazardous materials

If you possess a commercial driver license endorsed to transport hazardous materials, or are a first-time applicant, the Department of Public Safety announces you are facing strict new federal requirements.

In April 2004, the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration announced plans to conduct background checks on all commercial truck drivers who transport hazardous materials, including explosives, in accordance with Section 1012 of the 2001 Patriot Act.

"This means all drivers who transport hazardous materials are required to successfully complete a security threat assessment," said Casey Blackford, CDL coordinator. "The assesmment includes a criminal history records check, an immigration check and an intelligence-related check on any application, renewal or out-of-state transfer of a commercial driver license bearing an endorsement for hazardous materials."

But Blackford is quick to point out that the process will be implemented in two phases, the first phase will begin Monday. First-time applicants for drivers who are seeking to be endorsed to transport hazardous materials will be required to undergo a terrorist-focused background check beginning Monday. The second phase will effect 28,000 current CDL holders in Oklahoma who will undergo the same process beginning May 31, 2005 or the renewal date of their CDL, whichever comes later. Federal law requires the background check to be executed upon every four-year renewal thereafter.

Beginning Monday January 31, 2005, first-time applicants for HAZMAT endorsements will appear before an examiner and be processed as in the past but will be required to show proof of citizenship, e.g. certified birth certificate, certificate of birth abroad or certificate of naturalization. Non-citizens will be required to provide valid U.S. Bureau of Citizenship documents. This is the first step in the process for those eligible for Phase I.

The examiner will then require the applicant to complete an application and be administered a written test. Upon successful completion of the exam, the applicant is required to submit fingerprints and a biographical application. Local sites in Oklahoma include: Oklahoma City, 3330 NW 56th Street, suite 622, 405-945-0038 and the Tulsa location is 6913 S. Canton, Suite A, 918-488-0500. For a complete list of nationwide collection sites applicants can call 1-877-429-7746 on or after January 31, 2005. The Oklahoma City site will be operational on January 31, 2005 and the Tulsa site will be operational by February 14, 2005. TSA will then respond to the applicant within 30 days with a letter of approval or denial. If the applicant is denied, an appeal's process is established and is outlined on the TSA Web site.

The last step is for the applicant to submit the TSA letter of approval to an examiner for issuance of the HAZMAT-endorsed certified drive license.

"This process is just another step in securing the citizens of our nation," said Blackford. "Just like passengers are resolved to remain patient waiting in longer lines at airports, security measures being implemented on our nation's roadways are just as important. We know citizens will appreciate these efforts being made for their protection."

Oklahoma's fee for this process will remain the same at $66.50. But a new federal fee for the security threat assessment is $94 for the FBI, TSA and vendor's fee. This amount is due at the time the driver submits the required biographical data and fingerprints.

In an effort to expedite one portion of the process, CDL drivers may preregister by calling the federal toll-free number 1-877-429-7746 or accessing the TSA vendor Web site .

The phone number and Web Site will be operational on January 31, 2005.

"Preregistration is not mandatory but it will help expedite the process for the drivers before they are required to submit their fingerprints," said Blackford.

Media contacts: CDL Coordinator Casey Blackford 918-625-5865 or Karen Gentry, director of Driver License Examining Division 405-425-7746.