U.S. and Canada eye single background I.D.

WAHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2003) — The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is nearing the completion of a framework that would allow truck drivers to obtain a security card based on a single background check for a wide-range of transport operations.

TSA officials said that a broad plan for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card, with a fingerprint biometric component, would be unveiled in the near future. Drivers who currently submit to several background checks, will now undergo one examination to qualify for the card, which will give them access to all U.S. ports and other sensitive locations.

However, many Canadian drivers who haul across the border have already undergone extensive background checks in order to qualify for Free and Secure Trade (FAST). Canadian Trucking Alliance vice-president Graham Cooper says the association is talking to TSA officials about eliminating redundancy for drivers with FAST cards by dovetailing FAST into the TWIC system. So far, he says, the feedback from both Canadian and U.S. officials over such a plan has been positive. “They do recognize the difficulties for a Canadian driver undergoing a U.S.-only security check when he’s already been checked by both Canadian and U.S. governments to get a FAST card … especially considering security arrangements for FAST are every bit as stringent,” he says.

Graham cautions however, that much work still has to be done before the plan is finalized. One difficulty with FAST is the unfamiliarity the card has in parts of U.S. far from the border. “There are many places where enforcement (personnel) don’t know what a FAST card is,” he says.

The most important issue still to be ironed out is how officials will judge criminal histories that may exclude drivers from obtaining the card, and effectively barring them from the U.S. “That’s the issue that is at the top of everyone’s mind, and that is the next issue to address,” Cooper said.

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