With tough new rules for safety, US-Mexican border will open to long-distance truckers

The United States Congress has ordered the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to implement strict entry rules for long-distance trucks at the US-Mexican border. These rules likely will take effect around mid-2002.

According to this legislation, the border cannot be opened until FMCSA examines each Mexican border-crossing applicant for safety. Applicants with up to three trucks do not have to be inspected on-site, though half of all examinations must be performed on-site in Mexico.

The safety exam must validate the applicant's performance data and safety management program, including drug and alcohol testing and hours of service. It must receive proof of insurance coverage by a carrier licensed in the United States, approve driver qualifications, and review operating history. An interview with company management must be conducted, and a firm's maintenance and safety systems must be assessed. Any trucks without a current Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance sticker must be inspected.

Should the applicant pass this exam, it can receive conditional operating authority for 18 months. During that period, FMCSA must conduct a full compliance review if the company wants permanent authority. Half of all these compliance reviews must be performed on-site in Mexico, and all trucks with four or more trucks that did not receive on-site safety exams must get on-site compliance reviews.

According to this legislation, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General has 180 days to verify that FMCSA has enough trained inspectors working. He also must prove that the Mexican information system is accurate and integrated with the US system. Then Norman Mineta, US secretary of transportation, must certify that opening the border does not present an “unacceptable risk.” Other requirements include:

  • Inspectors must verify at least 50% of all Mexican driver's licenses electronically, and all licenses when placarded hazardous materials are being transported.

  • Each Mexican carrier must obtain a DOT number.

  • FMCSA must install weigh-in-motion systems at the five busiest border crossings immediately, and at the five next-busiest within one year. All trucks crossing at these sites must be weighed. Standard scales can be used at other crossings.

  • Mexican trucks only can cross where and when enough safety personnel are present to conduct “meaningful” inspections.

  • FMCSA has to require all carriers — US and foreign — to prove they understand the safety rules.

  • The agency has to devise a rule banning a foreign carrier restricted from operating in the United States from leasing trucks to another carier for transport in the United States.

  • The United States and Mexico must complete an agreement requiring Mexican hazmat drivers to meet the same requirements as US hazmat drivers.

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