The American Trucking Associations Wednesday called for Congress to eliminate duplicative background checks for commercial drivers.

Martin Rojas, ATA vice president of safety and operations, told the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation Security that the multiple checks commercial drivers must submit to are costly and discourage well-qualified potential drivers from entering, or remaining in, the industry.

"The screening of individuals involved in the transportation of goods is important to the trucking industry," Rojas told the subcommittee. "Our industry has long supported a national, uniform process to check a commercial driver's criminal history. However, the present multiplicity of background checks for commercial drivers, and their associated costs, creates a significant challenge for the recruitment and retention of qualified drivers."

Rojas said the cost of a hazardous materials endorsement background check is as high as $150, and since the program was implemented in 2004 more than 1.2 million hazmat drivers have voluntarily given up their endorsement, in part because of cost.

The problem is worse for hazmat drivers who also require a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, since those drivers must pay $132.50 for an identical background check to the HME screening.

By ATA's estimate, the TWIC and HME screenings have so far cost commercial drivers nearly $180 million in fees alone, not including lost wages for time off work to undergo the application and fingerprinting processes. More time, and the related costs, is required for a driver to pick up the credential and activate it at a TWIC facility.

"ATA believes," Rojas said, "that the MODERN Security Credentials Act, if signed into law, will have the . . . positive impact of reducing the burdensome requirements of multiple background checks and of excess fees and costs faced by commercial drivers and trucking companies."