Trucking companies at the Port of New York and New Jersey say slow renewals of federal Transportation Worker Identification Credentials threaten to shut their drivers out of port terminals.
Several trucking officials complained about TWIC renewal delays during a forum sponsored by the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, an affiliate of the American Trucking Associations.
The delays threaten owner-operator drivers with loss of work and drayage companies with a shortage of drivers, said Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey trucking association.
It’s “a potential national disaster,” Toth said. She sent a letter Friday to Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., whose district includes port terminals, asking him to help.
TWICs are required for unescorted access into secure areas at port terminals, airports and other transportation facilities.
Bethann Rooney, manager of port security at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said at the meeting that the Transportation Security Administration is struggling with a heavy backlog of renewals after the cards’ initial five-year registrations.
TWICs for drivers serving New York-New Jersey port terminals are expiring at an average of 800 to 1,000 per month, and expirations are expected to continue at that level through year-end, she said.
Rooney said Coast Guard regulations don’t permit terminals to admit a driver who has applied and paid for a TWIC renewal but hasn’t received his new card before the old one expires.
The TSA, which administers the program, has advised applicants to file for renewal four months before their old cards expire. Some companies complain their drivers and other personnel are still waiting for renewals they applied for in January.
Rooney said the TSA normally processes cards in six to eight weeks but sometimes takes longer. She said about 170 port authority staffers whose TWIC cards expire in May are still waiting, even though they applied in January.
Rooney urged companies to follow the TSA’s advice and encourage drivers to apply for renewals early. If a worker applies four months before the card expires, the new card should arrive in time, she said.
“If you wait till a month before your TWIC card expires, you are definitely in jeopardy of not getting it in on time, and being locked out of the terminal,” Rooney said.
Another tip: If you’re calling the TSA’s TWIC help desk, call as soon as the phone line opens at 8 a.m. If you wait until later, you’ll be stuck in a long phone queue, and “you’ll spend several hours on interminable hold with elevator music.”