Admitting Mexican trucks into the United States will be a top management challenge for the Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2003, according to information from the DOT inspector general's office (IG).
As Mexican trucks begin to operate throughout the United States as provided in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the key to a successful oversight program will be effective use of safety inspection resources and implementation of procedures, according to the IG.
This challenge, and others, are listed in a January 21 report from Kenneth Mead, inspector general, to the Transportation Secretary.
To accomplish the goal for admitting Mexican trucks, DOT will have to revalue overall resource requirements for the United States-Mexico border, including inspection staff and facility requirements, based on the amount of long-haul traffic that materializes.
As of January 2, 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had received 162 applications from Mexican carriers requesting long-haul authority. However, no one knows how many Mexican motor carriers will ultimately apply for and be granted authority to operate long-haul vehicles, according to the IG office. As that traffic materializes, FMCSA will need to assess the adequacy of its inspection resources, including those beyond the border states.
In addition, FMCSA should implement motor carrier and driver monitoring systems, and ensure that all federal and state inspectors have access to current, accurate, and timely commercial vehicle information on drivers, vehicles, and motor carriers.
"Our work has found that as the number of inspections of Mexican commercial vehicles seeking to enter the US commercial zone increased, the vehicles that had to be placed out of service for safety and other violations declined," the IG information states.
In August 2002, FMCSA issued a new rule that requires the states to place Mexican commercial vehicles out of service if they do not have US operating authority.
"FMCSA needs to ensure that all states implement the new rule and have access to timely information to determine if Mexican commercial vehicles are operating improperly, such as whether they have been authorized to operate beyond the commercial zones," the information adds. (Commercial zones at the US-Mexico border generally extend from three to 20 miles north of US border cities.)