OOIDA presses FMCSA to maintain standards, not lower them, for Mexican motor carriers

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 4/11/2012

More questions than answers. That’s what the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has following a letter from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding an “incomplete” application from Baja Express to participate in the cross-border pilot program.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston has now called on the agency to explain a “pattern by which the agency has chosen to permit less than full compliance with U.S. rules” in order to promote a cross-border trucking program with Mexico.

The exchange follows OOIDA’s protest of Baja Express’ application to the pilot program, in which a relationship with another motor carrier currently operating in the border zone was not disclosed.

William Quade, associate administrator for enforcement and program delivery for FMCSA, sent a letter to the Association that explained that Baja Express initially presented an “incomplete” application for authority. That was discovered and subsequently corrected, and a new, complete application was posted to FMCSA’s website.

“Your letter of March 21, 2012, in response did not address the seriousness of Baja Express’ omissions of material facts on its application,” Johnston wrote in reply.

Johnston went on to express the Association’s skepticism of FMCSA’s claims that Mexican motor carriers are being held to the same level of compliance expectations as U.S. motor carriers.

“On the OP-1(MX) application published by FMCSA on its website and submitted to the pilot program docket by OOIDA, Baja Express did not disclose that it was related to an affiliated motor carrier that previously held U.S. operating authority,” Johnston wrote. “According to the Applicant’s Oath in Section IX of the OP-1(MX), such an omission of material facts is a federal criminal violation.”

The Association is also challenging whether the now-complete application is genuine.

First, the new application is dated the same day as the original application. Also, it is not signed by an individual as required.

“Does an application with the applicant’s signature exist? If not, has the agency acted upon an unsigned application for operating authority? Or is it possible that someone at the agency itself completed this form for the motor carrier?” Johnston asked in his letter.

Given the suspect nature of the application, the agency’s acceptance of the application, and subsequent approval of authority for Baja Express to operate long-haul in the U.S., Johnston stated the Association sees a pattern evolving.

“OOIDA is concerned that FMCSA’s actions to accept Baja Express’ application follow a pattern by which the Agency has chosen to permit less than full compliance with U.S. rules in order to promote its pilot program, rather than require such carriers to meet the same standards required of U.S. motor carriers,” Johnston stated in closing.