Federal Update
Cross-border pilot program shortcomings trouble lawmaker

By Jami Jones, managing editor

A California lawmaker believes more congressional oversight and scrutiny may be in order given the lackluster performance of FMCSA in overseeing the cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, outlined his continued concerns over the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cross-border pilot program in late February in a letter to Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Hunter acknowledges the goals of the pilot program, but points out that the results have been “less than desirable and should be cause for a more thorough review.”

The letter cites the results of a recently released report from the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. The report highlighted an overall lack of participation in the program. At the time the report was released, only 17 trucks and 20 drivers were participating in the program.

“Not only does this small number highlight the lack of enthusiasm for the program among Mexico-based motor carriers, but likely means that the FMCSA will need to extend the program’s three-year time limit in order to obtain accurate data,” Hunter wrote. “Effectively, they will have created a long-term policy without the structure, scrutiny and oversight necessarily required for highway regulation.”

The report criticized the agency’s oversight of the cross-border program in five areas: English proficiency testing; quality assurance; drug and alcohol testing; monitoring; and cabotage.

That lack of oversight, Hunter says, poses a safety risk on U.S. roads.

“Allowing any foreign-based carrier to use our roadways without adhering to our safety standards not only gives them a further competitive advantage, but endangers the lives of our drivers and the families who use our highway system.”

Hunter went on to express his dissatisfaction with the use of Highway Trust Funds to pay for electronic on-board recorders installed in the Mexico-based trucks used in the program.

The lack of oversight, as well as safety and financial concerns, deserves an intensive review by the pertinent congressional committees.

“I firmly believe that, under your leadership, our committee can and will astutely address the important issues which we are charged to handle,” Hunter wrote in conclusion to Shuster. LL