DOT Confirms Need for Tighter Mexican Trucks Inspection under NAFTA

May 18, 2001

An adequate number of safety inspectors and a detailed plan for the inspection of Mexican trucks at all borders are both essential for the safety of all motorists, according to the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII).

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (IG) sent a report to Congress in early May that reviewed the current status of border crossings in the United States. The report made recommendations for upgrading certain border facilities and increasing the number of truck safety inspectors. This report came on the heels of FMCSA’s three proposed rules for implementing free truck travel throughout the U.S. under NAFTA. FMCSA is the federal oversight agency that has the authority to review and rule on applications submitted by Mexican truckers and trucking firms to enter the U.S.

The inspector general’s report emphasized that many border crossings do not have the manpower to conduct the number of inspections necessary based on the volume of trucks crossing the border each day. In some cases the inspectors are not on duty around the clock, though Mexican trucks do pass through these border crossings at all hours. The IG report also strongly urged the hiring of 136 new inspectors rather than the 80 initially suggested by FMCSA under the Bush Administration budget. NAII supports the increase in inspectors but says it would be more comfortable if federal authorities would agree on how many inspectors are actually needed.

The IG report said that in fiscal year 2000, 36 percent of inspected Mexican trucks were placed out of service, compared to a 44 percent out-of- service rate in 1999. Although showing improvement, the Mexican trucks still have a higher out-of-service rate than American trucks at 24 percent. “The 50 percent rate difference between Mexican and American vehicles placed out -of service is still a major gap that needs to be closed,” said Golden.

According to the NAII, FMCSA has proposed several rules including the mandate of two separate registration forms for truckers to fill out: one for those traveling within the border commercial zone and the other for those traveling throughout the U.S. The third proposed rule would require a more thorough examination of a Mexican trucking company within 18 months of gaining its authority to carry goods into the U.S.

The NAII indicated that its written comments to FMCSA would recommend that they include “when and where” the 18-month inspections will be held and “with whom and how” verification will be made on the validity of the information provided to FMCSA by Mexican trucking companies applying for authority to bring trucks into the U.S. Written comments on the FMCSA’s three proposed rules must be submitted prior to July 2, 2001.

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