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DOT IG releases new report on Mexican trucks

The much-anticipated new report from the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation was released in November, affirming that outlaw rigs from Mexico are trucking in the United States. The report concludes that Mexican carriers are operating illegally in the United States by either failing to obtain proper operating authority or operating beyond the scope of their authority.

The report is the result of a request by Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, auditing the Federal Highway Administration's oversight of Mexico-based trucking and bus companies operating in the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Using data collected from roadside inspections, the DOT Inspector General's office estimates that approximately 130 Mexican carriers operated illegally in 20 states beyond the four-state (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) border area. The report also concludes that as many as 505 illegally operated outside the commercial zones that extend up to 20 miles north of U.S. border cities.

Adequate mechanisms are not in place to control access of Mexico-domiciled motor carriers into the United States. To ensure that Mexico-domiciled motor carriers comply with U.S. statutes, controls should be established and safeguards enhanced, including the verification of registration information, the use of automated data and state safety inspectors to monitor compliance; the implementation of consistent enforcement policies; increased fines; and additional resources for the border program," the report concludes.

"This report confirms earlier reports that Mexican trucks and buses are operating illegally beyond the border area," Oberstar says. "It also affirms the need for legislation such as the 'Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1999' (HR 2679) to give the Secretary of Transportation the statutory authority to impose adequate penalties on operators who violate U.S. law." (Oberstar is an original cosponsor of the motor carrier bill.)

According to the IG's findings, serious safety violations were found on many of the trucks and buses operating illegally in the United States. The report estimates that 32 percent of the vehicles and 13 percent of the drivers operating illegally outside the border commercial zones but within the four border states were put out of service for such violations. Outside the border states, 19 percent of the vehicles and 13 percent of the drivers were taken out of service.

The report cites brake, lighting and tire problems as the safety violations most often found on such vehicles. One example cited in the report is the case of a Mexican bus carrying passengers from Tijuana, Mexico, to Las Vegas, NV. Inspectors found the bus had one front shock absorber missing, and several lighting violations. The driver spoke no English, did not carry a logbook or medical card, and the vehicle carried no proof of passing an annual safety inspection.

According to the audit report, there are 8,400 Mexico-domiciled motor carriers with authority to operate in the United States. Ninety-eight percent of them are restricted to the commercial zones along the four border states as long as they meet U.S. safety standards. Two percent, 168 motor carriers, operate in the United States under special exemptions, but must meet U.S. operation, safety and insurance regulations.

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