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U.S. Opening Border to Mexican Truckers


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Transport Topics / January 9, 2015

The United States border is being opened to Mexican carriers that want to run in the U.S., the Department of Transportation has announced.

The Jan. 9 announcement said that the DOT will publish a notice in the Federal Register, probably on Jan. 15, saying Mexican carriers are allowed to apply for operating authority here, ending more than 20 years of dispute over the Mexican truck issue.

“The policy change is expected to result in the permanent termination of more than $2 billion in annual retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods and follows a three-year pilot program that tested and validated the safety of Mexican trucking companies to operate long-haul in the U.S,” the DOT announcement said.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said opening the border to “a safe cross-border trucking system with Mexico is a major step forward in strengthening our relationship with the nation’s third largest trading partner, and in meeting our obligations under [the North American Free Trade Agreement].

“Data from the three-year pilot program, and additional analysis on almost 1,000 other Mexican long-haul trucking companies that transport goods into the United States, proved that Mexican carriers demonstrate a level of safety at least as high as their American and Canadian counterparts,” Foxx said.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman also welcomed the news, the DOT statement said.

The successful conclusion of the pilot program provides the basis for the permanent resolution to this dispute,” said Ambassador Froman.

“We have been, and will continue to work with Mexico to ensure that the threat of retaliatory duties will now be brought to a swift conclusion as well,” Froman said. “Formally concluding this process will help us continue our work to expand trade and investment opportunities between our countries.”

The pilot program ended in October but a report released by the DOT’s Inspector General last month said that with only 15 carriers in the pilot the IG could not draw conclusions about whether the general population of Mexican trucks would have the same high safety standards as those that participated in the pilot.

However, the same day the DOT announced the border was being opened to Mexican trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it sent its own report to Congress.

The FMCSA report said the pilot results show that Mexican carriers “can and do operate throughout the United States at a safety level equivalent to U.S and Canada domiciled motor carriers and consistent with the high safety standards that FMCSA imposes on all motor carriers authorized to operate in the United States.”

The conflicting reports are likely to draw the attention of Congress, which before the pilot was launched, had blocked other attempts to let Mexican trucks run long haul beyond designated commercial zones at the border.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he was “deeply disappointed” when the Obama Administration notified him that it had decided to open the border to the Mexican Carriers.

“They are justifying this decision, using data collected from Mexican trucks that they allowed to operate long haul in the U.S. as enterprise carriers, avoiding the more arduous pilot program,” DeFazio said.

“These carriers were not subject to the more rigorous safety inspections, electronic monitoring of hours of service compliance, and other measures to which pilot program carriers were subject,” he said. “This Administration appears insistent on creating opportunities for Mexican carriers - which will have major impacts on safety, security, and American jobs.”

The dispute over the border opening dates to 1994 when NAFTA took effect. The U.S. was to open its borders to more long-haul Mexican trucks but the opening was delayed by questions from the Teamsters and others about safety standards for Mexican trucks.

The DOT noted that in 2001, a NAFTA dispute settlement panel said the U.S. was not in compliance with the cross-border trucking provisions of the agreement.

And in 2009 Congress used its appropriations power to halt a demonstration project, at which point Mexico “exercised its option to take retaliatory measures, granted by a NAFTA Arbitration Panel, and impose more than $2 billion in annual tariffs on exports of U.S. agriculture, personal care products and manufacturing goods.”

Mexico “suspended” the tariffs after the new pilot program began in 2011.

Mexican carriers seeking long-haul operating authority will be required to pass “a Pre-Authorization Safety Audit to confirm they have adequate safety management programs in place, including systems for monitoring hours-of-service and to conduct drug testing” using labs certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Additionally, all drivers must possess a valid U.S. Commercial Driver’s License or a Mexican Licencia Federal de Conductor, and must meet the agency’s English language proficiency requirements,” DOT said.

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Mexico gets green light: DOT ‘opening door’ to cross-border trucking

Fleet Owner / January 11, 2015

Less than a month after an internal audit concluded a pilot program lacked enough participants to be statistically conclusive, the Dept. of Transportation said Friday that Mexican motor carriers will soon be able to apply for authority to conduct long-haul, cross-border trucking services in the United States.

Fully opening the border to approved carriers is “a significant milestone” in the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to the DOT statement. The policy change ends a 20-year political dispute over the NAFTA trucking provision, and is expected to result in the permanent termination of more than $2 billion in annual retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

And the certainty over that economic impact outweighed the statistical uncertainty from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s three-year test program to evaluate the safety impact of granting long-haul authority to Mexico-based trucking companies.

While the recently published audit by the DOT Office of Inspector General did not make any recommendations, it did determine that FMCSA “established sufficient monitoring and enforcement activities” to meet a lengthy list of requirements mandated by Congress.

The audit also confirmed FMCSA’s analysis: Pilot program participant carriers, as well as Mexico-domiciled and Mexican-owned carriers with existing authority to operate in the U.S., performed no worse than U.S. and Canadian motor carriers.

However, only 15 carriers participated in the pilot, well short of the 46 FMCSA estimated would be needed to achieve its inspection target. Additionally, 90 percent of the border crossings and 80 percent of the inspections were attributed to only two carriers, according to the OIG report. And the most active carrier in the pilot rarely traveled beyond the border zone.

FMCSA explained the lack of interest in the pilot to be the result of a number of factors: the termination by Congress of the previous demonstration project, the temporary status of the pilot program, increased interest in existing types of operating authorities and lack of established business relationships in the United States.

Still, DOT chose to accentuate the positive in its announcement. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the data proved that Mexican carriers “demonstrate a level of safety at least as high as their American and Canadian counterparts.”

“Opening the door to a safe cross-border trucking system with Mexico is a major step forward in strengthening our relationship with the nation’s third largest trading partner, and in meeting our obligations under NAFTA,” Foxx said.

Reaction from U.S. trucking interests ranged from tepid to ‘outraged.’

American Trucking Assns. (ATA) supports policy that allows foreign motor carriers to operate in the U.S., “provided they comply with all regulatory and financial requirements applicable to U.S. motor carriers,” said ATA president & CEO Bill Graves. “Nothing less is acceptable to ATA.”

Trucks transport more than 65% of the value of all U.S.-Mexico surface trade, Graves noted, and he added that ATA is committed to working with the DOT “to improve cross-border operational efficiencies … while respecting and complying with national operational requirements.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn.(OOIDA) contends the new policy is “all about geo-political economics.”

“FMCSA’s persistence to move this program forward is mind-boggling, especially when the agency tells us ad nauseam that their highest priority is safety,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “The FMCSA is clearly doing an end-around and playing with numbers to try and justify opening the border to long-haul trucks from Mexico. It’s clear from the lack of participation that Mexico-based motor carriers are not interested hauling beyond the commercial zone, if it means complying with the same regulations that U.S. truckers do.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), which has challenged with OOIDA previous attempts to open the border to Mexican trucks in court, argues that the OIG audit “made clear” that the pilot program was “a failure.”

“I am outraged. This policy change by the DOT flies in the face of common sense and ignores the statutory and regulatory requirements of a pilot program,” said Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa. “Allowing untested, Mexican trucks to travel our highways is a mistake of the highest order and it’s the driving public that will be put at risk by the DOT’s rash decision.”

Still, the DOT has submitted the FMCSA report to Congress, and published in the Federal Register a notice of the FMCSA plan to accept applications from Mexico-domiciled motor carriers interested in conducting long-haul operations.

Companies from Mexico that apply for long-haul operating authority will be required to pass a Pre-Authorization Safety Audit to confirm they have adequate safety management programs in place, including systems for monitoring hours of service and to conduct drug testing using an HHS-certified lab. Additionally, all drivers must possess a valid U.S. CDL or a Mexican Licencia Federal de Conductor, and must meet the agency’s English language proficiency requirements.

As with Canadian companies that are granted U.S. operating authority, carriers and drivers from Mexico are required to comply with all laws and regulations, including regular border and random roadside inspections. Once the motor carrier is approved, their vehicles will be required to undergo a 37-point North American Standard Level 1 inspection every 90 days for at least four years.

American trucking companies have been able to apply and operate long-haul in Mexico through NAFTA since 2007. Currently, five U.S. companies use this authority to transport international goods into Mexico, according to DOT.

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That must be the warm and fuzzy version of the FMCSA That I'm familiar with. Since when does inconclusive data determine that a pilot program is a success?

Someone appears to be in bed with Obama. If this is okay then maybe someone from the TSA can get under the covers and convince him that an American driver shouldn't be subjected to fingerprints and a background check every 4 years so they can legally haul 1001# of flammable friggin' paint!

Jim

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I don't see the problem, the Mexican drivers are all ready here why don't we let them drive in Mexico a few days a week that gets them off of ours a few days a week and Mexico will quit punishing fruit growers for the tariff on trucks. and if you don't think Mexican truckers are here visit Othello or Quincy Wa.

This will allow for Canadian drivers to compete for newspaper front pages, with reduced competition :whistling:

Sorry B.C. I couldn't resist :blush:

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