Will the TSA Soon Require a Federal Criminal Background Check for Transit Workers?

Transportation companies must navigate a web of regulations to comply with the law. Many aspects of your work in this industry may fall under the purview of one item of legislation or another. For example, most transport companies must comply with Department of Transportation regulations that require, among other things, a criminal background check and a drug test. However, concerns exist within the federal government that current rules aren’t going far enough.

The concern stems from issues raised initially following the September 11 terrorist attacks—namely that the transportation sector was highly vulnerable to internal bad actors. In the years since, the government has aimed to enforce stricter hiring practices in critical transit-related jobs and infrastructure, such as for dockers. The Transportation Security Administration recently published a new rule proposal and began the public comment period.

Under the new rules, several transit businesses must apply more than the typical employee background check. If adopted, the TSA would require an additional federal-level review of the FBI’s national criminal database and security watch lists. These rules would apply to workers in security-sensitive bus transportation and rail transit roles. Employees would have to bear the check expense, though companies could reimburse individuals.

Ongoing monitoring tools would become mandatory alongside a more stringent and far-reaching background check upon hiring. Every affected employee will have their name automatically checked against the terrorist watch lists each time those lists receive an update. During the public comment period, transportation companies have raised numerous concerns and objections about these changes.

From the TSA’s perspective, these changes represent an important step towards closing potentially dangerous loopholes. The roles selected for stricter screening are jobs that, in the wrong hands, could lead to crippled infrastructure or serious harm to the public. More than 20 years after 9/11, many vulnerabilities that enabled the attacks remain unresolved. The TSA hopes to control that risk better.

Transportation companies providing comments say that the new restrictions are too onerous and costly. They worry that additional screening could have a chilling effect on job applicants, driving down worker availability in an industry grappling with chronic shortages. One company suggested that the TSA should instead look for ways to strengthen the existing partnerships many have with the private companies they use to check the criminal record of applicants.

With potential new rules in the pipeline, reducing administrative burdens will be a priority for many transit companies. Many will likely want to continue their existing programs alongside the federal requirements. At backgroundchecks.com, our comprehensive reporting solutions for employers can streamline your process and simplify compliance. 

Faster checks, robust support, and a team that remains well-informed about the latest regulatory changes all contribute to a stress-free criminal background check process. While there’s no telling when or if the TSA will adopt these rules, it is advisable to prepare for an additional burden in the future now. You can concurrently reduce manual steps and strengthen your security with support from a proven screening provider.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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