Today U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced that a NAFTA provision that allows American and Mexican trucking companies to make cross-border deliveries to eachother’s respective countries is underway. Peters made the announcement during a visit to truck inspection facilities in El Paso, TX.
In a one-year demonstration program, a select group of Mexican trucking companies will be allowed to make deliveries beyond the 20-25 mile commercial zones currently in place along the Southwest border. Approximately 100 U.S. operators would be licensed by Mexico for cross-border operations, the Dept. of Transportation said. Conversely, 100 Mexican domiciled motor carriers will operate in the U.S., with audits necessary to approve the carriers slated to begin “within weeks,” the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) said.
The implementation of the NAFTA provision will eliminate the need for Mexican truckers to stop and wait for U.S. trucks to arrive and transfer cargo and make cross-border trade more efficient, Peters explained. Conversely, American trucks were also refused access to Mexico because the U.S. had long-delayed the implementation of this NAFTA requirement.
U.S. inspectors will conduct in-person safety audits to make sure that participating Mexican companies comply with U.S. regulations. Specifically, inspectors will ensure that Mexican truck drivers hold a valid commercial drivers license, carry proof that they are medically fit, comply with the U.S. hours-of-service rules and are able to understand questions and directions in English. FMCSA officials will be allowed to travel in Mexico to conduct safety audits of carriers seeking to operate in the U.S.
Mexican trucking companies that are allowed to participate in the one-year program must carry insurance with a U.S. licensed firm and are allowed to make international pickups and deliveries only—not to move goods from one U.S. city to another.
“The United States has never shied away from opportunities to compete, to open new markets and to trade with the world,” Peters said. “Now that safety and security programs are in place, the time has come for us to move forward on this longstanding promise with Mexico.”
“We are committed to retaining a high level of security and safety standards under this program,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “The tough security measures we already have in place will remain unchanged, resulting in a smart and secure approach to safeguarding the border, while allowing for American and Mexican carriers to deliver cargo outside of arbitrary commercial zones.”
The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) has endorsed the implementation of the one-year program, citing that the status quo is too inefficient. Performing a single truck shipment between the U.S. and Mexico now requires three drivers and three tractors, ATA said. A trailer crossing the border must be transferred from the originating carrier to a drayage carrier, cross the border and be transferred again to a carrier that can take it to its destination. There were about nine million such crossings in 2005, ATA added.
When the border is fully open, the originating carrier will be able to cross the border and deliver the shipment directly to its destination.
OOIDA, on the other hand said the initiative represents a considerable lapse in U.S. safety and security policy.
“You really have to try hard to look the other direction to ignore the lack of focus on safety in Mexico,” said OOIDA executive vp Todd Spencer. “Mexican-domiciled carriers operate in an environment without any attention paid to hours-of-service compliance and one that lacks credible drug and alcohol testing.”
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