New security regulations hurt fuel truckers

Federal regulations now require truckers who haul hazardous materials to undergo full fingerprint criminal records checks. These are drivers who haul everything from toxic waste to gasoline, propane, and home heating oil. The new Federal regulation under The Patriot Act is intended to prevent terrorists from getting ahold of trucks hauling hazardous cargo, they would want to use as weapons.

The new regulation is certainly laudable and necessary, but it’s not without it’s drawbacks. Many dealers have to wait out long delays to get the required clearances to put drivers on the road. “It’s kind of ridiculous, “six to eight weeks” 6 to 8 weeks it can take for the driver’s fingerprints to get to Washington D.C. where they are investigated by the FBI and TSA. It isn’t the end results that’s the problem, as extremely few drivers are rejected, but it’s taking too long to process the background checks, especially during the winter home heating oil season in the northern states such as Vermont. The system badly needs streamlining.

The problem is especially bad in Vermont since they hire mostly seasonal drivers.

“It’s a northern state issue.” Dealers need to have enough drivers in order to ensure customers don’t run out of home heating fuel. If a driver gets hurt or leaves, the question is how do you prepare for that?

“If it’s 20 degrees you can buy yourself some time, but if it’s 20-below there is no time.” “It’s a roll of the dice. When it gets that cold there is no room for error in this business … There is no buffer.”

Ironically, the bigger the dealer, the greater the problem. Reason cited – well managed smaller dealers have much lower turnover.

Felony convictions, such as armed robbery, hoaxing a weapon of mass destruction or even marijuana possession could disqualify a driver from getting his hazardous materials endorsement.

The State of Vermont has worked on streamlining the process by granting a 90 day license extension to existing drivers who are experiencing long delays getting their background checks processed.

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