Hazmat fingerprinting offered in Kenai

Posted: Friday, July 08, 2005

Alaska truck drivers who transport hazardous materials can now get their fingerprints taken in Kenai.

VIP Alaska in Kenai is one of four companies around the state to receive federal approval to provide mandatory fingerprinting services for truck drivers who haul hazardous materials. The others are in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

To haul these materials, truckers need a hazmat endorsement on their license.

About 10 percent of the 35,000 hazardous materials truck drivers are on the Kenai Peninsula, according to Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles Director Duane Bannock.

In May the Transportation Security Administration, a federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security, began requiring commercial truckers who haul hazardous materials to meet new security requirements.

Those requirements include a background check and a new set of fingerprints, according to a press release issued by the Alaska DMV. The fingerprints must be administered by a public safety or other TSA-approved agency, according to the release. Bannock said it was important for Kenai Peninsula truckers to have a convenient location to get this done.

In the original plans, there was only going to be one TSA-approved fingerprinting agency in the state, located in Anchorage. However, Bannock said DMV officials scrambled to get more sites approved.

"Maybe Anchorage, Alaska wasn't a one-size-fits-all solution for Alaska," Bannock said.

A commercial driver's license, along with the hazmat endorsement, expires every five years.

Bannock said most people know their driver's license expires on their birthday and get it renewed a couple of days before or on the expiration date. However, he said renewing a license with a hazmat endorsement usually takes at least three weeks from start to finish. He was concerned that the size and remoteness of the state could extend the renewal time even more, leaving some truckers temporarily out of work while they wait to renew. Worse yet, some could end up driving without a license, he said.

"What would happen if people didn't have their driver's license?" Bannock said. "Either scenario, B-A-D."

Evan Zavatone, safety director for the Alaska Trucking Association, a trade group representing the trucking industry in Alaska, said the TSA must not have realized how difficult and expensive it is for people to travel to Anchorage.

"Travel is difficult, to say the least, in our state," Zavatone said.

He said it took a concerted effort on the part of the industry to get the other locations arranged.

Drivers can make an appointment with VIP Alaska by calling 283-0586.

Information on the TSA's hazmat program can be found on the Web at www.hazprints.com.

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