FMCSA recruiting Mexican motor carriers into pilot program

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 2/27/2012

In response to the underwhelming participation in the U.S.-Mexico cross-border pilot program, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials are in Mexico drumming up business.

Anna Amos, director of safety programs, and Marcelo Perez, a transportation safety investigator for the agency, made a trip south of the border Friday, Feb. 24, on a recruiting trip of sorts.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the pair told Mexican motor carriers that if participation did not increase, the agency wouldn’t be able to statistically justify opening the border to all Mexico-domiciled motor carriers.

“It makes no sense that the Department of Transportation would spend our tax dollars to beg for Mexico-based companies to participate in the program,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “You certainly don’t see the Mexican government spending their money to come up to the U.S., rent a venue to try and sweet talk U.S. companies into coming down to Mexico.”

The program’s current participation is limited to two motor carriers. The participating motor carriers, Moises Alvarez Perez and Transportes Olympic have only two trucks and three drivers approved to cross the border as part of the program. Only Transportes has made any trips northbound across the U.S.-Mexico border – accumulating only nine trips since Oct. 21, 2011, that FMCSA reports went beyond the border zone.

One more motor carrier, Grupo Behr, has passed its Pre-Authority Safety Audit or PASA, and is awaiting for authority approval. That approval was delayed when the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association contested Grupo’s application.

OOIDA’s protest noted that in researching Grupo Behr, the Association was unable to secure documentation from FMCSA that should have been part of the “comprehensive” information provided to the public, and in two other instances was denied access to information by agency employees.

The agency noted in its response to comments that a new website had been set up that will have information on current applicants and past participants.

Turning to other public records, OOIDA’s protest outlined research of the vehicle identification numbers from inspection reports contained on FMCSA’s CSA website and questioned whether Grupo Behr would be using a 1991 Class 8 Freightliner, which does not comply with the EPA requirement for vehicles of model year 1998 or later.

The agency held off approving Grupo for six months – a clock that has since expired – allowing the motor carrier an opportunity to address compliance issues.

The list of current applicants stands at 16 according to FMCSA’s various websites and databases accessible to the public. Given publicly accessible information of 13 of the 16 companies, those companies operate only 110 trucks in their current Mexico operations.

Comprehensive Safety Accountability, the agency’s compliance measurement system for companies operating in the U.S., has compliance records on 13 of the 16 applicants because of current border zone authority. Of those applicants six motor carriers have “alert” status in at least one of the seven safety categories or BASICs as the agency calls them. That means they currently face an “intervention” or enforcement by FMCSA.

For example, applying companies Servicio De Transporte International, Trinity Industries, Maria Isabel Mendivil, Luis Edmundo Grijalva Gamez, Transportes Unimex and Autotransportes Libre Comercio are all in alert status in the Driver Fitness BASIC. That BASIC tracks compliance issues in licensing, ability to read and speak English sufficiently, current medical certification, etc. All six of the motor carriers have a BASIC score of 99 percent or higher.

Four of the companies are in alert status for the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. Servicio De Transporte International, Maria Isabel Mendivil Velarde, Luis Edmundo Grijalva Gamez and Transportes Unimex all are in alert status with BASIC scores of more than 86 percent.

Transportes Unimex is even currently under investigation by the agency for failing to perform a random controlled substance test.

Two other motor carriers – one of which is Grupo – have safety rankings in CSA. Grupo still maintains a 50.5 percent in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. GCC Transporte has scores of 47 percent and 57 percent in the Driver Fitness and Vehicle Maintenance BASIC respectively.

Five of the motor carriers make so few – if any trips into the U.S. border zone – that there is essentially no safety data compiled from U.S. inspections. Three of the applicants do not currently have OP-2 authority that would grant them border zone access to the U.S.

It’s that level of public information, gleaned from what border inspections are conducted, that may very well be responsible for the dwindling interest in the program.

That sentiment, along with the expense of compliance and participation, was voiced to FMCSA staffers at the recruiting session by a representative of Canacar, a group that represents Mexican motor carriers.

“The new program has way too many limitations, and that’s possibly why there aren’t enough carriers” that have registered, Alfonso Esquér told FMCSA staffers, according to the Union-Tribune.

“It is very complicated, it’s very expensive, and to tell you the truth, it hasn’t brought us any benefit,” the Union Tribune reported Juan Carlos Muñoz Márquez, president of Canacar saying.

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