Mexican Buses Avoid Safety Checks When Entering U.S., Says Audit

By Suzanne Gamboa | September 4, 2009

Some Mexican passenger buses are not being inspected when they enter the U.S. because they cross the border on evenings and weekends, there are no inspectors or the crossings lack safe places for inspections, according to a government audit.

Daily bus inspections were not being conducted at border crossings at Calexico and San Ysidro in California and Laredo and McAllen-Hidalgo Bridge in Texas, the Transportation Departments inspector general’s office said in its report.

At the San Ysidro and Laredo crossings, bus inspections were being carried out on the road’s shoulder within inches of moving passenger buses, the report said.

“These constraints lessen the impact border inspections have as a deterrent to unsafe buses entering the United States,” the report said.

The North American Free Trade Agreement granted access to U.S. roads to Mexican trucks and buses. Congress has delayed their travel further into the U.S. by first requiring certain safety measures be in place.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, which oversees safety monitoring for Mexican trucks and buses, agreed with all recommendations made by the inspector general’s office. In a written response to the audit the association said it was working with Customs and Border Protection to improve space for bus inspections.

The report also said some states are not consistently reporting traffic convictions of people driving in the U.S. with Mexican driver’s licenses. For example, New Mexico didn’t report traffic convictions for the first quarter of 2008 until the second quarter and Missouri is the only state that reported traffic convictions of Mexican drivers in noncommercial vehicles.

The inspector general said Arizona reported only 66 convictions for January through September 2008, compared with 229 in 2007.

Delayed reporting or non-reporting of convictions could lead to Mexican federal commercial driver’s license holders continuing driving in the U.S. despite the traffic conviction, the report said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association said the lower conviction reporting could be attributed to law enforcement budget cuts, court noncompliance and drops in commercial driving because of the economic slump.

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