TSA Gives Extension For TWIC Cards

The $15 million Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) pilot program has been completed, and the final report issued by the Transportation Security Administration. While the pilot was determined to be mostly successful, a number of problems were identified. The most glaring issues are that the Final Rule has yet to be written, and the readers have not been installed.

As a result of these and other issues, TSA has implemented a three year extension on all existing TWIC cards that expire between August 30, 2012 and December 31, 2014. The enrollment fee was also discounted from the original $129.75 to $60. The extension will require only one trip to an enrollment center, and background checks have also been extended for three years.

Trucking companies have been negatively impacted by the TWIC process. Drivers who need unescorted access to secure port areas have already invested in the high-tech biometric identification cards that are nearly useless without the card readers in place. The readers won’t be deployed until the Final Rule is completed. The readers themselves may not be installed until sometime in 2015, and then possibly only at high-security ports.

Over 30 different types of readers were tested with both contact and contact-less functions. Contact models, which required card insertion for cards to be read, experienced malfunctions due to moisture or debris entering the machines. Portable and fixed models of contact readers had weather-related issues. Vibration, radio frequency emissions, salt and various types of moisture all caused difficulties.

Contact-less readers were less prone to weather failures, but they had a higher rate of incomplete scans or other technical malfunctions. Both types of readers can only validate the card itself unless the user also places their finger on a pad to match their fingerprint with the one imbedded in the card. This combined process took longer than a visual inspection by an agent, which may cause delays in port access.

Other problems included lack of adequate training for both trucking professionals and security personnel. Since TSA has announced they won't require uniformity across all ports in equipment used, training may continue to be an issue. With different readers at different ports, drivers will need to be familiar with many models and their operating procedures.

There were also issues with security personnel being unfamiliar with operation of the readers, especially portable units. Some agents weren't adequately trained on codes used by the system. As a result drivers were sometimes misinformed about the reasons their access was denied. Some drivers were rejected due to system malfunctions, or because they weren’t properly registered in the computer system.

Truck driving jobs already have numerous physical challenges, and ergonomic issues were also identified with stationary TWIC readers. In some cases, readers were installed at a height or distance which made using them extremely difficult unless the driver exited the cab. At busy port entrances this is potentially very dangerous. Screens also lacked sun shields on some models, which made them nearly unreadable.

Although the TWIC system has been cleared for deployment pending release of the Final Rule, there are still numerous challenges that must be addressed before the system works as envisioned.

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