Sunday, March 7

Why Do Hazmat Drivers Need Background Checks?

We’ve all seen our fair share of waste contamination movies: from spiders that grow to enormous size to cans of mixed vegetables that begin speaking, the truth about hazardous waste is much less ridiculous and much more harmful.

A hazardous material is defined by the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management as “any item or agent (biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical), which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors.” However, it does address the fact that each of the four governmental agencies in charge of regulating hazardous waste — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) — have their own individual descriptions of the term. Since 94% of all hazardous waste is transported by truck, this article is going to focus on the DOT’s version as “any item or chemical which, when being transported or moved in commerce, is a risk to public safety or the environment.”

Rules And Regulations

Hazmat drivers need to be specially trained for their jobs, from understanding the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) set in place by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to the techniques that must be exercised during transportation itself. In fact, they need a unique license to operate a vehicle that contains hazardous materials. While all of this training is vital to ensuring both people and the environment are protected from contamination, becoming a hazmat driver also requires a background check.

Terrorist Transportation

Unfortunately, terrorism is still a prevalent force in the world; anything that can do harm or pose risk to human life is a target for such motivated individuals, so eliminating the chance that toxic, dangerous materials could fall into the hands of terrorists is an essential step to keeping our nation safe. During 2004, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began requiring security checks for hazmat drivers with this goal in mind, hoping to “deter a terrorist from obtaining or
keeping” a hazmat endorsement on their commercial drivers license. The process is still in place today.

Unsurprisingly, the best candidates for the private security industry — or indeed any industry that requires extensive background checks — used to be members of the U.S. Armed Forces: over 90% of military service members have already gone through such checks to obtain various levels of security clearance, so they’re inherently some of the most vetted, trustworthy individuals available for the job.

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