SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA shines light on inequity in cross-border program

| 6/29/2007

Friday, June 29, 2007 – Despite repeated assurances from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that Mexican trucks and drivers will be held to the same standard as U.S. trucks and drivers, that more than likely won’t be the case, according to OOIDA.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments on a June 8 Federal Register notice published by FMCSA outlining various aspects of the proposed cross-border program.

The Association points to FMCSA’s admission in its June notice that it intends to grant exemptions to at least three sets of motor carrier safety regulations – and not small, nit-picky regulations, either.

FMCSA announced it will accept the Mexican Licencia Federal de Conductor, Mexican driver medical qualification standards and Mexican drug testing procedures in place of compliance with the U.S. rules.

“The announcement acknowledges that Mexican drivers are being exempted from compliance with the U.S. CDL, medical qualification and drug testing rules,” OOIDA officials wrote in the Association’s comments.

Granting exemptions to regulations must include the publication of an explanation of how compliance with the Mexican regulations in place of the U.S. regs will ensure a level of safety equivalent to or greater than would be achieved by simply complying with the U.S. regs.

OOIDA contends the FMCSA June 8 Federal Register notice falls far short of this obligation.

That, in addition to the fact that OOIDA contends the Mexican regulations do not even begin to compare with the U.S. regs, has Association officials very concerned.

When comparing CDL regulations between the two countries, FMCSA – back in 1991 – claimed the two countries’ regs were equal. That was long before mandatory disqualifications for a variety of violations faced U.S. truckers. According to FMCSA’s notice, Mexican CDLs “can be” disqualified, but lack any mandatory revocations.

But, digging deeper, OOIDA also challenged the database from which driver data is pulled. When considering the comprehensive nature of a U.S. CDL holder’s driving record because of nationwide participation in reporting to the system, the haphazard data input into the Mexican database makes it sketchy at best.

Truckers in the U.S. may cringe at the mere mention of the medical requirements and the physicals they face, but at least they are the same for all truckers. OOIDA pointed out in its comments that FMCSA has yet to reveal to the public the processes, requirements, disqualifications, etc., related to Mexican CDL physicals.

And, then the Association looks at drug testing.

Nowhere in this current notice does FMCSA give details as to what Mexican procedures or regulations mimic U.S. regulations and how they provide for the same level of safety, OOIDA officials pointed out.

The combination of granting exemptions from the U.S. regs and not revealing how the Mexican regulations will ensure safety has the Association very apprehensive.

“The public is owned an explanation and analysis as to how compliance with Mexico’s commercial license, medical qualification and drug testing rules provide for the same level of safety as the U.S. rules,” Association officials wrote.

FMCSA initially only gave the public 20 days to comment, far short of the standard 30- and 60-day comment periods. However, on Friday, June 29, the day after the comment period closed, FMCSA extended the comment period until July 9 – to a full 30-day comment period.

Where to send comments
Comments can be signed or submitted anonymously. All submissions must include the agency name and docket ID number. For the cross-border program comment period, that number is FMCSA-2007-28055.

To submit your comments, you can:

  • Visit dms.dot.gov/submit/dspSubmission.cfm, include the docket number in the “Docket ID” field and follow the instructions;
  • Fax to: (202) 493-2251; or
  • Mail to:
  • U.S. Department of Transportation

      Docket Operations
      M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
      1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
      Washington, DC 20590

– By Jami Jones, senior editor