TWIC or not to TWIC

June 2019

Dave Sweetman


Like many, I have had a federal Transportation Workers Identification Card since the program was started. After getting the full background check and paying the tasty sum of $150, I can enter restricted facilities and keep America safe. At least that is the idea. I smell money.

In my former life as a cool car hauler, I loaded high-end cars in many of the ports around the country. Some ports required the TWIC, but surprisingly many did not. For obvious reasons, I won’t name those who do not, but from what I have seen TWIC has more holes than Swiss cheese. The Port of Baltimore requires the TWIC, as well as truck and driver info, before being allowed to access the terminal. The Port of Brunswick, Ga., requires the TWIC, as well as a Georgia Port card issued at the administration office. That seemed a bit redundant. Two cards equal the same info, but it’s their rule. No cards and you pay $125 for an escort to your customer. I smell money.

Since changing carriers, I still have made use of the TWIC on several occasions. At the Port of Norfolk, Va., not only did they require the whole TWIC gig but they searched my truck, sleeper and side boxes, including the trapdoor that held the potty waste tank. No contraband in there either.

Roll forward to a few weeks ago. I had to pick up a high-tech military trailer in an Army depot. Greeted at the gate by a military police sergeant, we exchanged magic numbers, and I parked in a secure area and went into the administration office for the credential check. I produced my paperwork, CDL, TWIC and contact info. I was promptly told TWIC is not accepted because it is easily counterfeited. Really? Surprising, considering the card has all the biometrics, a gold chip with the personal info, as well as the zip strip on the back. That makes me so proud of the $150 fee I paid to be a safe-and-secure member of trucking society. I smell money.

After the gentleman in the administration office behind the bulletproof glass window ran a full FBI background check, took my fingerprints and my photo, I had a 20-minute wait for the verdict. I was found to be who I said I was, not a threat to the free world, and given a spiffy looking badge and gate pass with magic numbers and bar codes. I felt validated. I was then escorted to my pickup point, and the day went much smoother.

Trucking on down to my destination, which was also a secure Army base, I figured my mystery ID problems were solved. Well, almost. The military police were very cordial, but matter-of-fact, as expected. The TWIC, again, proved useless. I offered it, as always, and was politely told that is not accepted or recognized there either. After a quick ID check and a showing of my billing and magic numbers, I was again proven to be an upstanding citizen and given access. Delivery went smoothly, and the world is a safer place.

So, the moral of the story is this: We spend $150 for a background check for a federal ID card that, in my opinion, is second to useless. After a few years, we spend another $150 for a renewal of the same useless card. I can count on fingers and toes the number of facilities where the cards are not even checked. In my case, as I am sure with many drivers, the facility that handles the application, background and issuance of the card is nowhere near my residence, even though I live near a major city. That translates to a full lost day in the car ride over and back.

I still smell money. Lost money. I see little return on my investment.

But the thing that bothers me the most is the TWIC program that was designed to keep the bad guys out of sensitive areas needs to be redesigned, updated or scrapped altogether. LL