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What Do Hazmat Background Checks Look For?

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Posted by: David Garcia December 22, 2023

Despite the dangers they pose, hazardous materials are vital components of many products and things we use every day. Common examples include gasoline, ethanol, and ammonia. It takes special knowledge and training to be able to transport these materials safely and legally – they could cause a great deal of damage if mishandled or misused. 

As a result of this, truckers must undergo a rigorous certification and screening process before they are allowed to transport hazardous material. This process includes a thorough background check that screens for several things.

Below, we cover everything you need to know about hazmat background checks and what they look for.

What Is a Hazmat Endorsement and Background Check?

The drivers who haul goods and materials along America’s highways are an essential part of the supply chain and economy. Many types of goods are transported every day, including potentially hazardous materials like gases, flammable liquids, and explosive substances. The federal government requires drivers to obtain a special certification – called a Hazmat Endorsement – in order to legally transport hazardous materials, which are defined as anything requiring a hazmat placard under Department Of Transport (DOT) regulations

To obtain a hazmat endorsement, drivers must complete an application, pass a written test and vision screening, and pass a specific background check. 

This background check, created by the Transport Security Agency (TSA), is called the Hazmat Endorsement Threat Assessment Program. It exists to prevent people who pose a risk to national security from being able to transport large quantities of hazardous material. Drivers who meet all the requirements are granted a Hazmat Endorsement, which is symbolized by an “H” on their license.

Who Is Eligible for a Hazmat Endorsement?

There are several qualifications that determine eligibility for an endorsement. First and foremost, drivers must be age 21 or older and must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL). 

Applicants don’t need to be US citizens or even permanent residents, but they must be able to prove they’re legally allowed to live and work in the US. Endorsement applicants must also be able to pass a vision test.

The most important eligibility criterion is that applicants must be able to pass the background check. They must furnish all documents and information pertaining to the background check. 

They must not have any disqualifying criminal charges, convictions, warrants, or indictments. If the applicant has served prison time for certain offenses, they must have been released for five or more years (but this can differ based on state). We’ll cover disqualifying offenses in a later section. 

What Are the Application Requirements?

Applicants must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Hold a valid CDL issued by the state in which you’re applying
  • Not have a disqualifying criminal record (more details on this later)
  • Submit to fingerprinting
  • Pass a vision screening
  • Pass the written exam
  • Pass the TSA Threat Assessment, which can be completed in one of two ways:
    • Complete the application online
    • Complete the application and test at an application center
      • If you’re applying in MD, FL, NY, MS, WI, VA, TX, or PA, you can complete the assessment at your local DMV
  • Provide the DMV with proof of identity and citizenship or legal residence with any of the following:
    • A US passport or birth certificate, a certificate of US citizenship, a certificate of naturalization, or a permanent resident card
    • An alien registration receipt card, an I-551 stamp on your foreign passport, or an I-551 stamp on form I-94 accompanied by an arrival/departure photograph and record
    • Form I-327 (Reentry permit)
    • Valid DOT card (and medical waiver if applicable)

There are also fees associated with the exam and endorsement. Fees for both can vary between states, but in general, the exam fee runs between $15 and $20, while the endorsement fee is $86.50. 

It is also important to note that specific procedures and document requirements can vary in different states, so drivers should always verify information with the DMV of the state in which they’re applying. Some states also offer a reduced rate for the endorsement fee ($41) for drivers who already carry a valid TWIC® card.

What Does the Hazmat Endorsement Threat Assessment Program Consist Of?

The Threat Assessment Program was created in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and its main goal is to prevent related threats to public safety. The Threat Assessment Program, therefore, screens drivers for indicators that they may pose a risk if given access to transportation and large amounts of hazardous material. The program consists of several types of record and database searches, including state, federal, and international databases and watchlists. 

The Steps Involved in the Hazmat Background Check Process

The Hazmat Endorsement Threat Assessment Program is a thorough background check process that involves several databases, especially if the applicant has ties or relations outside of the country. Below are some of the major components of the program.

Intelligence-Related History Check

The intelligence-related check searches several federal and global databases, including Interpol and terrorist watchlists. This check serves to verify the applicant’s identity and furnish information, including convictions or jail time in other countries. 

Its primary goal is to screen for indicators that the applicant may pose a risk to public safety. Applicants may fail the Threat Assessment Program if this check reveals extensive undisclosed criminal activity or convictions either domestically or abroad.

Immigration Status Verification

The Hazmat Endorsement Threat Assessment Program accepts several immigration statuses, including US nationals, lawful permanent residents, and certain refugees and asylum recipients. It also allows several non-immigrant work visas, including but not limited to K-1 and K-2, S-5 and S-6, C-1/D, L-1, H-1B/1, and E-1 and E-3. Applicants should check the eligibility of their individual immigration status or work visa before initiating the application. 

Mental Capacity Verification

The Threat Assessment Program states that individuals seeking a hazmat endorsement cannot be mentally incapacitated, which is defined in two ways: having been committed to a mental health care facility OR having been adjudicated as lacking mental capacity. 

Being committed in this context doesn’t include voluntary admission or being committed to a mental health facility for observation. It refers specifically to individuals who are sent to mental health treatment facilities on the lawful order of a governing body, such as a court or commission.

To be adjudicated as lacking mental capacity, a governing body must rule that the individual doesn’t have the mental capacity to conduct and manage their own affairs or that they are a threat to themselves and others – which includes court findings of insanity, not guilty due to lack of mental responsibility, or incompetence to stand trial. 

Individuals who meet either qualification for mental incapacity aren’t eligible for a hazmat endorsement. 

FBI Criminal Record Check

The FBI criminal records check uses the applicant’s fingerprints and furnished information to screen domestic state and federal databases. It provides information on criminal charges and convictions in the US. There are several types of criminal convictions that can disqualify an applicant from receiving a hazmat endorsement, which are grouped into two categories. 

Certain offenses are considered permanently disqualifying, meaning the applicant will never be granted a hazmat endorsement. Other offenses are referred to as “interim disqualifying offenses.” These offenses are considered disqualifying in two circumstances: (1) if it has been less than seven years since the applicant was convicted or (2) it has been less than five years since the applicant was released from prison.

What Leads to Disqualification From Hazmat Endorsement?

Applicants can be disqualified from receiving a hazmat endorsement if they fail to pass the TSA Threat Assessment Program background check. Applicants may either be permanently disqualified or temporarily disqualified, depending on their criminal record.

Applicants who were convicted of certain crimes – or conspiracy to commit them – are considered permanently disqualified from holding a hazmat endorsement. Some (but not all) of those crimes include: 

  • Sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition
  • Espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage
  • Treason or conspiracy to commit treason
  • Murder
  • Improper transportation of hazardous material

Certain crimes are considered “interim disqualifying” and are based on the amount of time since conviction. Applicants are disqualified if they were convicted, pled guilty, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or found not competent to stand trial within the last seven years or if they were released from conviction within the last five years.

Some (but not all) of the interim disqualifying crimes include: 

  • Rape
  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Kidnapping or taking hostage(s)
  • Smuggling
  • Bribery
  • Extortion
  • Robbery
  • Assault with the intent to kill
  • Arson

This doesn’t include all of the disqualifying offenses. The TSA provides a list of disqualifying offenses and other factors here.

Applicants with a criminal record should consult TSA Threat Assessment Program guidelines before applying to ensure they qualify. 

Final Thoughts

A hazmat endorsement is a certificate that allows drivers to legally transport hazardous materials. To obtain an endorsement, applicants must pass a written exam and a vision screening and meet several basic requirements. They must also pass a rigorous background check called the Hazmat Endorsement Threat Assessment Program. 

ScoutLogic understands that background checks can be costly and time-consuming for companies and small business owners, so we offer several background screening services to help employers streamline this process. Get in touch today to see how we can help improve your hiring process.

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