[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 148 (Friday, July 31, 2020)]
[Pages 46152-46153]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-16359]



Transportation Security Administration

[Docket No. TSA-2003-14610]

Notice To Extend Exemption From Renewal of the Hazardous 
Materials Endorsement Security Threat Assessment for Certain 

AGENCY: Transportation Security Administration (TSA), DHS.

ACTION: Notice; extension of temporary exemption.


SUMMARY: TSA is extending for 90 days the exemption from Renewal of the 
Hazardous Materials Endorsement Security Threat Assessment for Certain 
Individuals that TSA published on April 8, 2020, which was scheduled to 
expire on July 31, 2020. Under this exemption, states may extend the 
expiration date of hazardous materials endorsements (HMEs) that expire 
on or after March 1, 2020, for 180 days, due to restrictions and 
business closures in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a 
state grants an extension, the individual with an expired HME must 
initiate the process of renewing his or her security threat assessment 
(STA) for the HME no later than 60 days before the end of the state-
granted extension. State licensing agencies and related associations 
report ongoing difficulties in timely renewal of expiring HMEs and 
asked TSA to consider extending the exemption for 90 days. TSA has 
determined it is in the public interest to extend the exemption for 90 
days. TSA may extend this exemption at a future date depending on the 
status of the COVID-19 crisis.

DATES: This extension of the previously issued exemption, published on 
April 8, 2020 (85 FR 19767), becomes effective on August 1, 2020, and 
remains in effect through October 29, 2020, unless otherwise modified 
by TSA through a notice published in the Federal Register.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Hamilton, 571-227-2851 or 
[email protected].



    On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the SARS-
CoV-2 virus and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to be a global 
pandemic. On March 13, 2020, the President declared a National 

    \1\ See Proclamation 9994, Declaring a National Emergency 
Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak (March 
13, 2020). Published at 85 FR 15337 (March 18, 2020).

    The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 requires individuals who transport 
hazardous materials via commercial motor vehicle to undergo a STA 
conducted by TSA.\2\ As required by TSA's implementing regulations in 
49 CFR part 1572, the STA for an HME consists of criminal, immigration, 
and terrorist checks. The STA and HME remain valid for five years.

    \2\ Public Law 107-56 (Oct. 26, 2001; 115 Stat. 396), Sec.  
1012(a)(1), codified as amended at 49 U.S.C. 5103a.

    Under 49 CFR 1572.13(a), no state may issue or renew an HME for an 
individual's commercial driver's license (CDL), unless the state first 
receives a Determination of No Security Threat for the individual from 
TSA following the STA. An individual seeking renewal of an HME must 
initiate an STA at least 60 days before expiration of his or her 
current HME.\3\ The process of initiating an STA requires the 
individual to submit information either to the state licensing agency 
or a TSA enrollment center, including fingerprints and the information 
required by 49 CFR 1572.9,\4\ at least 60 days before the expiration of 
the HME.\5\

    \3\ 49 CFR 1572.13(b).
    \4\ 49 CFR 1572.15.
    \5\ 49 CFR 1572.13(b).

    It may be impracticable for some commercial drivers to renew their 

[[Page 46153]]

during the current COVID-19 crisis. Measures to prevent the spread of 
COVID-19 may affect the ability of commercial drivers to present 
themselves in-person to a state licensing agency or TSA enrollment 
center for the collection of fingerprints and applicant information. 
Without the new STA, TSA's regulations prevent states from renewing or 
extending the expiration of the individual's state-issued HME.\6\

    \6\ 49 CFR 1572.13(a).

    Consistent with the requirements in 49 CFR 1572.13(b), if the state 
grants an extension to a driver, the state must, if practicable, notify 
the driver that the state is extending the expiration date of the HME, 
the date that the extension will end, and the individual's 
responsibility to initiate the STA renewal process at least 60 days 
before the end of the extension. If it is not practicable for a state 
to give individualized notice to drivers, the state may publish general 
notice, for example, on the appropriate website.

Authority and Determination

    TSA may grant an exemption from a regulation if TSA determines that 
the exemption is in the public interest.\7\ On April 2, 2020, TSA 
determined that it was in the public interest to grant an exemption 
from certain process requirements in 49 CFR part 1572 related to STAs 
for HMEs, given the need for HME drivers to work without interruption 
during the COVID-19 crisis.\8\ This exemption does not compromise the 
current level of transportation security because TSA continues to 
conduct recurrent security threat checks on HME holders and is able to 
take action to revoke an HME if derogatory information becomes 
available, regardless of expiration date. TSA uses data previously 
submitted by these individuals to conduct recurrent vetting against 
terrorism watch lists and databases to ensure that they continue to 
meet TSA requirements for having an HME.

    \7\ 49 U.S.C. 114(q). The Administrator of TSA delegated this 
authority to the Executive Assistant Administrator for Operations 
Security, effective March 26, 2020, during the period of the 
National Emergency cited supra, n. 1.
    \8\ See exemption from Renewal of the Hazardous Materials 
Endorsement Security Threat Assessment for Certain Individuals, 85 
FR 19767 (April 8, 2020).

    This exemption permits states to extend the expiration date for an 
HME for up to 180 days for individuals with an HME that expires on or 
after March 1, 2020, even if the individual did not initiate or 
complete submission of required information for an STA at least 60 days 
before expiration of the HME.\9\ With the 90-day extension of the 
exemption that TSA announces in this Notice, states may continue this 
procedure until October 29, 2020. Individuals who were eligible for an 
extension of their HMEs during the initial exemption may continue to be 
eligible under this notice of extension of the exemption.

    \9\ This exemption remains in effect through October 29, 2020, 
unless otherwise modified by TSA through a notice published in the 
Federal Register. TSA considered tying the duration of the exemption 
to the duration of a public health emergency declaration, but 
believes that the option for further modification as noted above 
provides clearer notice to and better certainty for states 
administering the program.

    States and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators 
asked TSA to consider extending the exemption. Some states continue to 
face challenges maintaining regular operations at state Drivers 
Licensing Centers due to public health considerations related to the 
inability to predict how or where COVID-19 may spread in the future. 
Although most TSA enrollment centers have remained open during the 
pandemic, temporary closures in states and regions with limited 
enrollment center alternatives have complicated drivers' ability to 
enroll for an STA. TSA's enrollment provider has re-opened many sites 
that were temporarily closed, but due to the uncertain nature of the 
spread of COVID-19, applicants may encounter renewed closures in the 
coming months. The extension will help ensure that drivers can continue 
to perform critical services during the pandemic.
    For these reasons, TSA is extending the exemption for 90 days.

    Dated: July 23, 2020.
Kelli Ann Burriesci,
Assistant Administrator, Enrollment Services and Vetting Programs, 
Transportation Security Administration.
[FR Doc. 2020-16359 Filed 7-30-20; 8:45 am]