According to a report presented to Congress Thursday, the U.S. Transportation Department "fully expects to be in a position this summer to certify to the president that the border can be opened."
The DOT Inspector General's report said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration still has some areas that need work, but Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead said he believes they can be addressed by midsummer.
Some of the listed shortfalls include hiring more inspectors, building more inspection facilities, better electronic access for inspectors to U.S. and Mexican databases, and complete development of the safety monitoring system for Mexican carriers.
FMCSA plans to fill 198 out of 214 new border inspector positions and train 171 by July 31, the inspector general found. By June 30, inspection facilities should be adequate at 23 of 25 border crossings. In addition, federal and state inspectors at border crossings and mobile enforcement units operating at the border should have access to U.S. and Mexican databases to check commercial driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, insurance and operating authority by June 30.
"We have reviewed FMCSA's plans for addressing these issues and believe they are credible and achievable within the established timeframes," the report said.
The report also shows that Mexican trucks will not flood across the border when it is opened later this year. Since May 3, 2002, only 40 Mexican carriers have sought applications for permission to drive beyond the commercial zones near the border. According to FMCSA figures, 26 carriers indicated they intended to operate a combined total of 118 long-haul commercial vehicles. The other 14 applications were incomplete and did not provide information on the number of commercial vehicles the carriers plan to operate long-haul in the United States.
Meanwhile, Texas officials say all safety checks are in place to clear Mexican trucks for full entry into the country, and they are awaiting the go-ahead from the U.S. government. "We're ready," Lt. Mario Salinas, a Department of Public Safety officer who oversees commercial inspections operations, told news reporters.