SPECIAL REPORT: Cross-border trucking concept unveiled

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 1/6/2011

Thursday, Jan. 6, 1011 – Shortly after meeting with members of Congress this morning, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood released an “initial concept document” for a program that would grant Mexico-based motor carriers long-haul access to the United States.

The announcement comes after nearly two years of tariff pressure by the Mexican government to open the border to long-haul trucks from Mexico after a previous demonstration program was shut down in March of 2009, shortly after President Obama took office.

The “concept document” will be presented to the Mexican government Thursday afternoon as a starting point in the renewed negotiations to develop a cross-border program, according to information obtained by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The fact that a program is in any stage of development does not sit well with the OOIDA leadership.

“With all the talk about the need for every initiative to create jobs, it’s absolutely shocking,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “The only jobs this ill-conceived idea can create are for non-citizens who will take jobs away from U.S. citizens.”

Coupled with the fact that the program would threaten U.S. trucking jobs, Spencer is equally concerned about the safety and security of truckers and U.S. highway users alike.

“It’s a pipe dream that the safety and security issues can be resolved, given the general state of disarray or war that exists in Mexico,” he said.

The concept outlines various qualifications, restrictions and reporting mechanisms the Department of Transportation will propose in ongoing negotiations with Mexico in an attempt to address the congressional concerns that shut down the previous program.

The number of Mexican motor carriers and trucks would be “managed” during the first phase of the program to “ensure adequate oversight.” Before being admitted into the program, both motor carriers and drivers would have their records reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

Similar to the previous demonstration program, motor carriers would also be subject to passing a Pre-Authority Safety Audit. The audit would include, for example, a review of the motor carrier records on vehicle maintenance, drug testing and driver qualifications.

The audits would also include an English language proficiency and U.S. traffic laws knowledge test of each driver participating in the program – conducted in English.

Once admitted into the program, Mexican motor carriers would have their trucks and drivers electronically monitored.

The agency has also proposed follow-up and compliance reviews as part of the “concept document.”

The agency is planning on publishing a Federal Register notice describing the proposed program to seek analyses and comments on the program.

According to the DOT press release, that formal proposal is expected in the “coming months.”

To read the "concept document" click here.

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