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IG report: not all Mexican drivers, vehicles, being checked at the border

By Dorothy Cox - The Trucker
Posted Mar 12th 2008 3:43AM

sign_post.jpgWASHINGTON — Measures to make sure that all Mexican drivers and vehicles crossing the border are checked are not being done as planned, says an interim report released this afternoon on the Mexico truck program by DOT's Office of Inspector General.

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in a hearing this afternoon grilled Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters about the cross-border program.

The IG’s report stated that although some 3,700 checks had been done at the border since the program’s inception in September of 2007, a “control measure” to “ensure that checks of all Mexican drivers and vehicles crossing the border are occurring as planned” had not been implemented. “Without this quality control measure, FMCSA does not have the assurance that it has checked every Mexican truck and driver that is participating in the project when they cross the border into the United States.”

The report said FMCSA has developed 25 site-specific border crossing plans in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to make the checks but not implemented the quality-control measure, even though it committed to do so in a Sept. 6, 2007, report to Congress. According to an FMCSA official, the agency is still gathering information for this control and “is exploring other methods to verify that every Mexican truck and driver is checked at the border,” the report said.

At the six-month point fewer carriers than anticipated are participating, which makes it difficult to judge the safety impacts of the program, the report also found.

Apparently alluding to this part of the report in advance, FMCSA Administrator John Hill said recently that the program might be extended to collect additional safety data.

The IG report noted that according to FMCSA officials and press reports, factors such as the additional costs of insurance, the project’s uncertainty and “the burdens associated with increased reviews at the border may have played a role in the limited participation of Mexican carriers.”

FMCSA records indicated that only 247 trips have extended beyond the commercial zones although in August of 2007 the agency had estimated that some 540 vehicles would be participating if 100 Mexican carriers received provisional authority.

“By contrast, as of Feb. 25, only 70 vehicles were identified by the 16 Mexican carriers that had participated up to that point, including the carrier that dropped out,” the report noted.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has said it will rely on an Independent Evaluation Panel “to determine whether the demonstration project has adversely affected motor carrier safety in the United States,” the report said, adding that the IG had verified the panel’s ongoing efforts.

The report said that FMCSA had established a Mexican Conviction Database to track traffic convictions of Mexican drivers in the U.S.  and that “problems we identified in August 2007 with the Mexican Conviction Database … have been corrected by the states.”

The report also listed FMCSA’s efforts at installing 82 GPS units on 38 Mexican trucks and 44 U.S. trucks.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the report “provides even more ammunition to keep the border closed because of safety concerns.”

To read the testimony of Calvin L. Scovel III, DOT Inspector General, the interim audit, remarks by Peters and to see a list of the Mexican and U.S.-domiciled carriers approved for the project, click here.

For more in-depth coverage of the Mexico truck project, pick up the April 1-14, 2008, print issue of The Trucker.

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