SPECIAL REPORT: Cross-border trucking a go; OOIDA files

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor | 9/7/2007

Friday, Sept. 7, 2007 – In a late-night teleconference Thursday from Washington, DC, the U.S. Transportation Department announced the official OK for a cross-border pilot program.

FMCSA Administrator John Hill told reporters the U.S. plans to give up to 25 Mexican firms permission by the end of September and add another 25 companies each month until hitting 100 by the end of this year under the one-year pilot program

For now, two trucks from one Mexican trucking company have been approved to haul cargo anywhere in the United States. Hill identified the company as Transportes Olympic, based in Monterrey, Mexico, a suburb of Nuevo Leon.

At the same time, Mexico granted authority to Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution Inc. of El Paso, TX, to travel anywhere in Mexico.

Both companies can cross the border immediately, but may not do so for several days while they determine new routes and handle details such as insurance, said Hill.

“What we’re hearing from the carriers is they could be ready to go as soon as days from now,” Hill said Thursday night.

Hill said the anticipated second audit from the DOT’s Office of Inspector General had been delivered to Congress an hour before the 9 p.m. press conference. He said the FMSCA had already responded to concerns in the audit regarding the ability to inspect “every truck every time” whether state enforcement is fully prepared, and whether the on-site inspections in Mexico were including all trucks in the fleet.

Hill did not say if Congress would have the opportunity to review the audit and FMCSA’s response – or ask questions about them – prior to the opening of the border.

Mexico has also committed to allow up to 100 U.S. firms anywhere in Mexico by the end of this year, he said, and 14 are in the wings to receive permission to roll.

So far, only 38 Mexican trucking firms have been prescreened to go anywhere in the U.S., said Hill.

Hill said Mexican companies must abide by the same, if not stricter, standards as U.S. carriers. He rolled through a list of must-haves for Mexican trucks and truckers that included requirements to have U.S.-based insurance, ability to communicate in English, participate in drug/alcohol testing program through U.S. labs, pass a thorough safety audit of records and equipment on location at the company’s Mexican headquarters and more.

Hill said each Mexico-based truck would be subject to a vigorous front-to-back inspection and be required to display a decal issued by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The CVSA sticker would be good for three months. While driving in the U.S., every driver and vehicle from Mexico will be subject to road inspection and placed out of service if they fail inspection.

He did not provide details on how states and federal government will collect taxes on Mexican carriers equal to what U.S. carriers pay. Mexico does not participate in the International Registration Plan or the International Fuel Tax Agreement.

Nor was there information provided on how differences in commercial driver licenses would be handled. For example, violations in personal vehicles are not assessed on a Mexican licenses, but they are on U.S. CDLs.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston promised Thursday that as soon as the pilot program was officially started, the Missouri-based truckers’ association would be on the court house steps.

Today, Johnston said OOIDA’s attorneys in DC have filed a petition for review of the cross-border pilot program and a petition for stay pending review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“Our legal counsel was there when the court opened at 8 a.m.,” said Johnston.

To read the OIG’s second audit, click here. To read the FMCSA’s response to the OIG’s second audit, clickhere. To read OOIDA's petition, click here.

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