Heavy Duty Trucking

NOV 2014

The Fleet Business Authority

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14 HDT • NOVEMBER 2014 www.truckinginfo.com WASHINGTONreport T he Mexican truck lines that have been provid- ing long-distance, cross-border service under a federal pilot program have moved to normal operating status. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administra- tion ended the three-year pilot program and granted authority to the carriers, pending final reports on the program from an advisory committee and the Trans- portation Department's Inspector General. "In the interim, based upon successful comple- tion of the program, as well as a review of safety and inspection data collected during the program, the Department has converted the 13 participants to provisional or standard operating authority, allowing those carriers to continue to operate in the United States," the agency said. Owner-operators and the Teamsters union, long- time opponents of an open border, objected to the decision. American Trucking Associations applaud- ed it. The Mexican carriers in the pilot program are running 55 vehicles with either permanent or provi- sional authority. The latest FMCSA report shows that these trucks have crossed the border more than 27,000 times and U.S. officials have conducted 5,408 inspections. The Transportation Department Inspector General is working on a final audit of the program to see if it is preserving safety, if it ensures that the carriers are complying with the rules, and if enough Mexican car- riers are participating to yield a valid assessment. The report is expected by mid-December. The last audit, in February 2013, found that the Mexican carriers were safe, but there were too few to prove that the regulatory system would work in the FMCSA grants authority to Mexican pilot carriers long run. At that time there were just 558 inspections. FMCSA has since exceeded its target of 4,100 inspections. In addition, the agency has tasked its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee with producing a report on the effectiveness of the program. An MCSAC subcommittee has been studying the issue and was scheduled to meet again in late October. A final report is due next spring. Meanwhile, the agency will continue to inspect the Mexican carriers at the border and they will have to abide by U.S. regulations. The pilot program was set up by the Obama admin- istration in 2011 to prove that the agency can ensure the safety of Mexican trucks crossing the border. Building on work done by the prior Bush administra- tion, FMCSA installed a system of regulations and inspections designed to ensure that the Mexican operators meet all U.S. safety requirements. This is the latest development in a 14-year U.S. effort to comply with terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under the agreement, the border should have been opened to long-distance trucking in both directions in 2000. The opening was stalled until 2007 by difficult negotiations with Mexico and opposition from U.S. labor unions and owner-operators who oppose free trade, fear the loss of jobs and argue that Mexican trucking is not safe. In 2007 the Bush administration started a demon- stration program to test a safety regime set up by FMCSA. When Congress killed this program in 2010 Mexico retaliated with import tariffs on agricultural and industrial products. In 2011, the Obama administration negotiated a deal in which Mexico agreed to drop the tariffs while the U.S. put in place a revised program to vet Mexican carriers for safety. This is the three-year program that just expired. Free trade victory or dangerous leap of faith? Todd Spencer, executive director of the Owner- Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the agency should not have acted before the Inspector PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/AMERICAN SPIRIT

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