Monday, October 13, 2008

Trouble in the land of TWIC

We reported recently that after years of delays, the federal government has finally opened all the enrollment centers for the TWIC card – the Transportation Workers Identification Credential.

Of course, we still don’t have all port facilities using the cards. And we don’t have the electronic readers necessary to check them to ensure they’re valid.

But, hey, you can enroll. I guess that’s something.

Or is it?

A trucker called in to OOIDA headquarters recently to tell us what we suspected would happen all along. To enter the ports he services, he has to have not only his TWIC card, but also a card for that port, a card for some terminals, a whole box of cards just to do his job.

The whole original idea of TWIC was not only security, but to replace all the other cards.

You may remember that back then, Todd Spencer said that TWIC would not replace the two dozen or so cards some truckers have to carry – it would be just one more card. And here we are, years later, watching that prediction come true.

This is a boondoggle, a waste of taxpayer money that has yet to yield any result for the American taxpayer or the American trucker.

Unfortunately, it’s also a reality right now. Truckers who want to work the ports have to sign up, have to turn over some very personal information, have to travel the miles and miles to get to an enrollment center, have to pay the fee.

It’s been a big concern for me to hear it’s causing truckers this kind of inconvenience … although that word hardly describes what a pain in the butt this has been.

The problem here, though, is not just the pain. It isn’t even charging a fee for what could be your fourth government background check.

It’s a philosophy of how government interacts with industry – a philosophy carried out only halfway.

The federal government has been very reluctant to put more regulation on big businesses. Some of you may read that and think, hey, I thought they wanted to deregulate all business.

But the fact is, you and all the other truckers out there know that the amount of regulation you face has not decreased one iota. You have logbooks and FAST and cargo securement and hazmat endorsements and medical cards and chain laws and spring thaw restrictions and weight limitations and split speed limits and kingpin-to-rear-axle limits and IFTA and IRP and drug tests and on and on and on.

But big business … well, things are running pretty smooth for them. The current folks running things in Washington have been pretty lax in enforcing regulations in regard to them. Ask anyone who’s talked with their carrier about possible violations of the leasing regulations.

So when the feds put TWIC out there, they said it would replace these cards, but then they did nothing to make that happen, no regulation requiring ports or terminals to use it in place of all the other cards. They just accepted that it would happen; call it a faith-based security initiative.

Well, no one is accepting on faith that you fill out your logbook. You are required to meet the regulations imposed on you. Why shouldn’t the shippers, receivers, brokers, big carriers, and yes, port terminals be required to do the same?

If TWIC is going to work, they can’t just enforce it on the trucker; they have to do something about getting the ports to use it to.

Of course, there’s also the other option – they could give up this nonsense and come up with something that actually works.

What a concept, what a radical idea! But then again, we are dealing with the feds … so don’t get your hopes up.