OTTAWA, Ont. The US Transportation Security Administration announced that as of August 10th, Canadian truck drivers entering the United States with hazardous materials loads will be required to be in possession of a FAST card. The requirement is restricted to quantities requiring a hazardous materials placard, and includes explosives.
There has been more than three years of uncertainty for trucking companies, importers and exporters over how to comply with US security requirements for hazardous materials loads. From the outset the problem has been to find a mechanism for Canadian drivers to comply that would be acceptable to US authorities since a system of licence endorsements as prescribed for US drivers does not exist in Canada.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which first proposed the FAST card as a solution for Canadian drivers hauling hazmat into or out of the United States over three years ago, has welcomed the announcement. However, the alliance’s CEO, David Bradley, said “while we are pleased that the USTSA has finally adopted the solution CTA promoted over the past several years, it is difficult to understand why this announcement came less than three weeks from a legislated deadline, when the process to obtain a FAST card typically takes 6 to 8 weeks — it’s frustrating but seems to follow the pattern of how so many US security measures are being dealt with.”
An estimated 3.5 million US hazmat drivers are subject to a background security check in order to obtain, renew or transfer a hazardous materials endorsement on a state-issued commercial driver’s license. The requirement for US drivers can be traced back to the USA Patriot Act of 2001, which unfortunately was silent on how foreign drivers would comply. A subsequent piece of US highway legislation, SAFETEA-LU, required “motor vehicle operators registered to operate in Mexico or Canada” to undergo a “background records check similar to the background records check required for commercial motor vehicle operators licensed in the United States to transport hazardous materials in commerce.”
“Absent this announcement, there would literally be no way for Canadian drivers to comply with the law. CTA estimates that at least $12 billion in annual trade would have been impacted, involving everything from petroleum products and radioactive materials to fertilizers and paint”, said David Bradley. “On the positive side, we are aware that approximately 60,000 FAST cards have already been issued to Canadian drivers, so we are hopeful that no disruption in this trade will occur”.