FMCSA Still Working on Mexico Pilot Details

Mexico cross-border truckingThe Inspector General report said FMCSA needs to develop plans for how it will do pre-authorization on-site safety inspections in Mexico. (photo courtesy www.mexicotrucker.com)

By Oliver B. Patton, Washington Editor

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has more work to do before it can start the pilot program for long-distance trucking across the Mexican border.

The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation says the agency has met most of the congressional requirements for the pilot program, but still must explain how it will conduct pre-authorization safety audits of Mexican carriers in Mexico.

Before the agency can launch the program, it must address this and other issues the Inspector General found.

In response to the Inspector General’s findings, FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro said the agency is addressing the issues expects to send a report to Congress by the end of this month.

The three-year pilot program is being designed to test the system the agency has devised to ensure that Mexican trucks are safe and do not violate U.S. cabotage regulations. It sets up a vetting and enforcement system to evaluate safety performance based on inspections at company offices, as well as at roadside, ports of entry and weigh stations.

One requirement of the program is that the agency conduct half of its pre-authorization safety audits and compliance reviews on-site in Mexico. The Inspector General found that the agency has not yet developed plans for how it will do those on-site inspections.

In addition, the agency needs to prepare coordinated site-specific plans to make sure Mexican drivers and trucks are inspected at the border, the IG said. Also, it needs to establish a system that verifies driver and truck eligibility for the pilot program, and a plan for using electronic monitoring devices. And, it needs to train U.S. enforcement personnel in how the pilot program will work.

Ferro said the agency has begun training its field staff for the pre-authorization safety audits, and has had extensive discussions with state officials about that training. In addition, she said, the agency has begun reviewing proposals for electronic monitoring and will issue guidance before the pilot gets under way.

Also, she said, the agency is working on systems to ensure that Mexican drivers and trucks have been approved for the pilot, and is reviewing procedures its field staff must follow when they go to Mexico to conduct the audits and compliance reviews.

It remains to be seen if the pilot program will get under way when the agency’s work is done. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has sued to halt the program and several congressmen introduced legislation to limit the program.

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