Lawmaker troubled with cross-border pilot program shortcomings

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 2/20/2013

A California lawmaker believes more congressional oversight and scrutiny may be in order given the lackluster performance of FMCSA in overseeing the cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, outlined his continued concerns over the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cross-border pilot program in a letter to Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Hunter acknowledges the goals of the pilot program, but points out that the results have been “less than desirable and should be cause for a more thorough review.”

The letter cites the results of a recently released report from the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. The report highlighted an overall lack of participation in the program. At the time the report was released there were only 17 trucks and 20 drivers participating in the program.

“Not only does this small number highlight the lack of enthusiasm for the program among Mexico-based motor carriers, but likely means that the FMCSA will need to extend the program’s three-year time limit in order to obtain accurate data,” Hunter wrote. “Effectively, they will have created a long-term policy without the structure, scrutiny and oversight necessarily required for highway regulation.”

The report criticized the agency’s oversight of the cross-border program in five areas: English proficiency testing; quality assurance; drug and alcohol testing; monitoring and cabotage.

That lack of oversight, Hunter says, poses a safety risk on U.S. roads.

“Allowing any foreign-based carrier to use our roadways without adhering to our safety standards not only give them a further competitive advantage, but endangers the lives of our drivers and the families who use our highway system.”

Hunter went on to express his dissatisfaction with the use of Highway Trust Funds to pay for electronic on-board recorders installed in the Mexico-based trucks used in the program.

“At a time when nearly all federal agencies are reviewing fiscal outlays, it is surprising that the DOT deems it appropriate to take funds designated for the improvement of our nation’s roadways and spend those dollars on technology upgrades for foreign operators,” Hunter wrote.

The lack of oversight, safety and financial concerns deserve an intensive review by the pertinent congressional committees.

“I firmly believe that under your leadership our committee can and will astutely address the important issues with which we are charged to handle,” Hunter wrote in conclusion to Shuster.

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