Cover Story
View from Exit 24
Enough with the dog and pony show

By Jami Jones, senior editor

After reading the final plan for a cross-border trucking program with Mexico, I can tell you that the opportunities for ranting and raving are plentiful.

The one I cannot let go of is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s repeated insistence that our southern border is a model of safety and security thanks to some sort of amazing oversight.

Before I rip their point to shreds, I do want to point out that there are men and women who work border security and work their hinds ends off doing it. They care and they truly want to protect our country.

Now, back to the shredding ...

In the final cross-border trucking program plan, FMCSA officials state that the agency “and its state partners have sufficient staff, facilities, equipment and procedures in place to meet the requirements of this pilot program. This conclusion is based on the agency’s experience providing safety oversight for Mexico-domiciled motor carriers currently authorized to operate within the border zones.”

I think you get the gist. Their current border inspection program is their proof-positive that everything will be just fine.

It would be a lot easier to believe if they would cough up some real numbers. Sifting through what is publicly available makes coming up with a true percentage dicey.

To start off, FMCSA is still only reporting the total number of inbound trucks from Mexico for 2008 and earlier. No 2009 or 2010 stats on total crossings.

As far as “border” inspections, there’s no clear-cut data provided there either. You can get “roadside inspection” data all the way through 2010.

So just for grins, if you take the 4.9 million trucks coming into the U.S. in 2008 and only 224,562 roadside inspections, that means only 4.6 percent of Mexico-domiciled carriers entering the U.S. encountered roadside inspections.

Something tells me that number is really high. Especially since it’s been reported to Congress that the inspection rate is closer to 1-2 percent.

I should also note that while FMCSA fails to report total border crossings for 2010, the rate of roadside inspections dropped 14.4 percent.

You don’t even have to have a criminal mind to see how that plays out for the cartels.

They send a sacrificial mule through in a junk truck and trailer with a few hundred pounds of pot. The poor sap behind the wheel doesn’t have a license. There are no papers showing insurance, cargo or anything.

The drug dog hits. You have a full-on inspection, drug interdiction right there at the border. Investigators come in. Pictures are taken. Drugs are carted off in a “record” seizure.

Meanwhile, the cartel just sent through 10, 15, 20 more nice trucks loaded to the gills. No one checks. They’re all busy with the big “bust.” For the cartels, that one truck and small load lost is simply the cost of doing business.

For every truck that is inspected, resources are pulled away from monitoring the traffic – and monitoring the traffic isn’t enough.

Yet FMCSA has the gall to say that “FMCSA is not aware of any information that would suggest the pilot program will increase the extent to which illegal activities occur.”

They want us to rest assured that the pilot program won’t add to the traffic since so many of the Mexican motor carriers that will apply for long-haul authority already operate in the border zone.

However, this program dictates that FMCSA will take its overworked border staff and make them inspect poster children companies who join the cross-border program. These companies will have nice trucks and legit drivers. They will put their best foot forward.

In the meantime, more suspect loads will cross because of the dog-and-pony-show cross-border program sucking up inspectors’ time.

Face it, when you logically break it down, the already puny resources at the border intended to keep our country safe and secure were just handed a significant blow – despite what FMCSA says. LL