FMCSA: Mexico trucks, start your engines
Nov 29, 2002 12:00 PM
Mexican truck service into the US interior has been approved, according to information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). As a practical matter, this service will begin only after FMCSA reviews Mexican carrier applications and grants provisional operating authority to qualified Mexican truck companies seeking the authority.
FMCSA is authorized to act on 130 applications received thus far from Mexico-domiciled truck companies. Mexican trucking firms that receive operating authority as a result of this process will be permitted to deliver and back-haul cargo to and from the United States. In addition, Mexico is obligated under NAFTA to provided expanded access for US carriers.
In addition to the 130 Mexico-domiciled motor carriers that have applied to operate beyond the border commercial zones in the United States, 854 Mexico-domiciled motor carriers have applied to FMCSA for provisional certificates of registration to operate in the border commercial zones. Of these 854 applicants, the FMCSA has issued provisional certificates to 459.
Until now, most Mexico-domiciled trucks crossing the border into the United States have been restricted to operating in "commercial zones," which are areas surrounding US cities. Commercial zones along the southern border generally extend three to 20 miles past the corporate limits of cities, depending on population. Even with the implementation of the truck provisions of NAFTA, most trucks from Mexico will be certified for operating only in commercial zones.
The action to open the border was prompted November 27 when President Bush modified the moratorium on granting operating authority to Mexican motor carriers. The President's action means that the United States has fulfilled its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that the transportation can begin, according to FMCSA.
The change in the moratorium affects only international cargo and service between the United States and Mexico. It left in place the moratorium on permits to Mexico-domiciled motor carriers for providing truck services between points in the United States.
The FMCSA, which regulates interstate truck safety, will be granting operating authority only to Mexican motor carriers that comply with all US safety standards and insurance requirements. The agency has established a detailed application process and a comprehensive safety monitoring program, which are intended to ensure that only Mexican carriers capable of fully complying with US safety regulations operate in the United States. Individual applications are being reviewed, and as soon as all the administrative steps are completed, including completion of on-site safety audits, qualified motor carriers will be granted provisional operating authority.
Mexican drivers will be subject to US drug and alcohol requirements. They also must follow US hours-of-service rules and maintain logs to prove it to safety inspectors. To drive in the United States, commercial drivers from Mexico must have a Licencia Federal, the Mexican equivalent of a US commercial driver license.
United States and Mexican truck inspectors can access federal and state databases in the United States and Mexico during an inspection to check whether a driver's license is valid.
To receive operating authority, all Mexico-domiciled carriers must undergo a safety audit by the FMCSA. During these audits, inspectors assess a carrier's safety posture and assist applicants with information concerning US safety regulations and help ensure that these carriers have methods in place to comply with the safety regulations.
The United States and Mexico will share safety data generated on both sides of the border in such audits by US officials. Of the 130 Mexico-domiciled motor carriers that have applied to begin cross-border long-haul cargo service into the United States, approximately half are ready for safety audits.
To help ensure safety, Mexican carriers granted authority to operate in the United States beyond the border commercial zones also will receive a formal compliance review within the first 18 months of operation. Carriers that receive and maintain satisfactory compliance ratings will be awarded permanent operating authority at the end of the 18-month period of operating under provisional operating authority.
All Mexican trucks operating in the United States will be required to display a valid Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspection decal. These decals, valid for 90 days, indicate a vehicle has passed a safety inspection by a qualified inspector. Likewise, Mexican truck companies will be required to carry US insurance while operating in the United States.
In 2001, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were about 4.3 million crossings into the United States border commercial zones from Mexico. According to an estimate based on figures from the late 1990s, these crossings are by about 63,000 Mexican trucks.