Report by Rick Schweitzer, NEFI Regulatory Counsel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued a temporary exemption that allows States to grant an extension of up to 180 days for a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) that expired or would otherwise expire between March 1, 2020 and the end date of this exemption. The expired HME is exempt even if the individual was unable to initiate or complete the required Security Threat Assessment (background check) before the expiration date.
Under TSA regulations, a State may not issue or renew an HME for a CDL unless the State first receives a Determination of No Security Threat on the driver from the TSA. Drivers renewing their HME are required to initiate a Security Threat Assessment at least 60 days before expiration. The process of initiating an STA requires drivers to submit information either to the State driver licensing agency or to a TSA enrollment center, including fingerprints and background information. However, due to COVID-19 related closures, many CDL drivers have been unable to access state driver licensing agencies or TSA enrollment centers to provide fingerprints and in-person interviews required for HME renewal.
TSA is allowing states to extend the HMEs for up to 180 days. The TSA announcement does not provide an automatic renewal of HMEs nationwide. Instead, each State must issue its own waiver for the automatic extension to become effective within the State. States are expected to grant similar waivers given the inability of drivers to initiate an STA due to COVID-19 closures.
The exemption applies to an individual who held a valid, unexpired HME with an STA (Determination of No Security Threat) on or after March 1, 2020, whose HME has expired or would otherwise expire between that date and the close of the effective period of this exemption.
If the state grants an extension, the individual with an expired HME must initiate the process of renewing his or her STA for an HME no later than 60 days before the end of the State granted extension. TSA may extend this exemption at a future date depending on the status of the COVID-19 crisis.