Feds Step Up Hazmat Inspections

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspectors are continuing to visit 80,000 hazardous materials carriers over the next several months in response to increased security concerns following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. FMCSA says these visits will not result in compliance reviews or enforcement actions.

“We’re visiting every carrier that’s in our census,” says David Longo, a FMCSA spokesperson. “We are going to prioritize them by those that carry bulk explosives, anhydrous ammonia, poisonous gases and petroleum products.”

FMCSA says its visits will be solely an effort to increase the awareness of hazmat carriers to terrorist threats. The agency will make recommendations to carriers that it says could help them avoid a terrorist strike in the future, offering tips on personal security, hazmat materials and package control, en route security, technical innovations, management prerogatives, communications and readjustment plans based on current conditions. FMCSA requests that companies include security in all decision-making processes, and recommends that management include all levels in security decisions.

“All of our available field people will be out doing these inspections, probably somewhere between 400 and 500,” Longo says. “And we’re also asking for help from any state enforcement agencies that can lend a hand.”

Hazardous materials drivers will also get extra scrutiny, Longo says. State enforcement agencies have been requested “to concentrate on driver-only inspections of hazmat trucks” in their roadside inspections. “We’re not asking them to eliminate safety inspections, but to step up their driver inspections,” he says.

“The other thing we are doing to support FBI efforts to identify terrorists is to go through the 2.5 million hazmat endorsements that are in CDLIS and see if we can help point out anything that might appear suspicious.” CDLIS, the Commercial Driver’s License Information System, is a database of all CDL holders. States use CDLIS and the National Driver Register to check driver records. Longo says the CDLIS review should take less time than the carrier visits.

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The focus on hazmat truckers began when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a warning on Sept. 25 that there was a “clear and present danger” of additional terrorist attacks and that some of these attacks might involve trucks carrying hazardous materials.

About 20 of the more than 350 people held in the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks were charged with trying to obtain fraudulent licenses to drive tanker trucks. Recent news reports also detailed a yearlong Pennsylvania investigation involving the selling of CDLs by an ex-PennDOT employee. Robert Ferrari was charged with selling licenses to applicants who either did not complete the required tests or who had suspended licenses, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sept 28. Ferrari, a former state driver’s license examiner, denies selling the CDLs and hazmat endorsements, the newspaper reported.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says, “We tend to feel like there’s going to be minimal payback in increasing all roadside inspections” in an effort to increase security. “We feel the focus should be on hazmat endorsements and those CDLs issued in the last three years. We feel that will be the most productive enforcement effort.”