In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was established, and along with it, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed to work with airport operators to strengthen access controls to secure areas. TSA was also called to consider using biometric access control systems to verify the identity of individuals seeking to enter secure airport areas.1
In December 2001, under the authority of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, TSA developed and promulgated the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The TWIC program was eventually designed to provide tamper-resistant biometric credentials across all mode of transportation, such as seaports, airports, rail, pipeline, trucking, and mass transit facilities.
Today, TSA is responsible for enrollment, security threat assessments, and TWIC enrollee data systems operations and maintenance. Currently, TSA operates around 135 centers where workers can enroll in the program and pick up their TWIC cards. These centers are located in ports and in areas where there are concentrations of maritime activity throughout the United States and its territories. According to a recent GAO report, TSA has issued nearly 2.3 million TWICs as of April 11, 2013.2
The OOIDA Foundation is the research and education arm of the Association, and it has been tracking the changes across the trucking industry since 1998. Due to concerns brought to the attention of OOIDA, the Foundation emailed the TWIC Survey to its members January 2014, in order to gather information and knowledge from their vast experiences. Within a few short days, the Foundation received almost 2,500 responses.
The survey incorporated five questions pertaining to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program. The research analysis demonstrated that a majority of small business owners and professional truck drivers do not have or plan to get a TWIC card. In fact, only 27 percent indicated that they had a TWIC card. Nonetheless, many members indicated that they had had some experience with the TWIC program.
Interestingly, the thousands of members who expressed their experience with TWIC shared many notable similarities in their remarks. First, regardless of the members’ attitudes towards the TWIC program, many suffered an issue of convenience. According to a recent GAO report, entitled “Transportation Worker Identification Credential: Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Need to Be Reassessed,” there are only 135 centers where drivers can enroll in the TWIC program.3 A number of members said that the closest center was several miles away, and one in particular stated that the closest center was over 4 hours from his home. Other members said they had to travel anywhere from between 65 to 350 miles to pick up their TWIC card.
Many members also stated that parking was difficult to find at TWIC centers. One member said, “TWIC is not truck accessible. We are not able to drive to many of the offices in our truck.” Further, many complained that the application process was lengthy and time consuming, which forced them to set aside a whole day just to apply for their card between travel time and the time it took to enroll. Nonetheless, one member did state that the online application saved them time on their initial visit.
Perhaps the largest issue members had with the TWIC program was the cost and lack of utilization of the card at the ports. The TWIC card itself, not to mention the cost of fuel to reach the center, cost approximately $130 to obtain and $65 to renew. In addition, a vast majority of the members’ comments focused on the lack of use for the card. One member said that the program was a big joke, saying he still needed to have a separate port card for most parts and that “the biometric readers are not installed in over 95 percent of all ports. In five years, I have only been to two ports that had a reader.”
Additional comments included:
- “It has been completely useless. Even as a second form of ID it is not recognized. I have never used it for it’s designated purpose.”
- “Waste of time and money. I’ve only been asked to scan and enter my PIN once in 6 years. I go to various ports on the East coast at least once a month. It is merely used as a visual ID, if it’s used at all.”
- “A joke, I have never been checked on the biometric meter. Not used for ID purposes.”
- “The TWIC program is a joke…In the two or three years that I’ve had one, not once has anyone asked to see it.”
- It is required for a few places, but VERY FEW. Many ports do not use it. Most people do not know what it is, even port security.”
- “Used for entry on military bases mostly, when they accept it. Most bases do not consider it a form of ID.”
- “They look at it in some ports, military bases, and refineries but rarely do they ever check it or swipe it into the system to my knowledge.”
- “A waste of money. A government ID that isn’t good enough for the government. When I go onto military bases to deliver, they want my driver’s license, not the TWIC”
The final problem that many members had with TWIC was the program’s redundancy. Several members not only had a TWIC card, but also carried a hazmat endorsement, both of which call for a background check. One member commented, “Why do I pay for a background check to get my hazmat, and then pay another one for my TWIC?” Another stated that their TWIC could easily be substituted for a hazmat endorsement. One member perhaps gave the best summarization of the comments by saying, “I already had to pay for the same background check once for the FAST pass, then again for my hazmat, and then again for the TWIC.” “Redundant and absurd.”
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, a large percentage of the members stated that they did not intend to renew their TWIC card. Most simply commented that they would not renew, but those who gave an explanation mentioned the hassle of renewing their card and the lack of use the program had. A member stated, “My card will expire this year and I’m NOT going to renew it. Every port that I have went in to have not had the system set up to use it. What a waste of my money.”
The members who planned to renew their TWIC gave some familiar comments, such as the inconvenience to drive hundreds of miles to pick-up their card, the lack of truck parking at those locations, and issues with redundant background checks for hazmat and TWIC. In fact, a member stated that he had to order a taxi to drive him to the nearest center because they do not accommodate truck parking.
Further, it seemed that many of members did not know that they could renew their application online, and an equally as many were not allowed to renew online. Moreover, many experienced difficulties with the website, from the system being down to members’ information not being found, even though they had a valid TWIC card. One member commented that he had two drivers renew online, but when they went to pick up their cards they were instructed to re-apply at full price, which they did. “When the error was discovered and brought to the attention of the TWIC Enrollment Center, the drivers were told, “Oh, I guess we messed up, but there’s nothing we can do to correct it. Once you pay your fees, even if done twice because of our error, you can’t get a refund.”
Unfortunately, many members that tried to renew online experienced trouble. In fact, 89 percent stated they had difficulty renewing their card online. The few members who did renew online and had no trouble with the service still faced the issue of taking time out of their busy working schedule to drive hundreds of miles to pick-up the card in person. “It wasn’t so much the online experience as the fact that I had to travel 120 miles by car to pick it up. Supposed to be able to park a truck nearby but I couldn’t see where you would park one.” Another member stated, “The online service worked much better than getting the original card. The difficulty both times was in scheduling the appointment time to pick-up a card. Not much understanding of a working DRIVERS time frame to pick-up a card.”
1 “Transportation Worker Identification Credential: Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Need to Be Reassessed,” Government Accountability Office (May 2013), page 6
2 Ibid, page 2
3 “Transportation Worker Identification Credential: Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Need to Be Reassessed,” Government Accountability Office, May 2013, 2