OOIDA asks “what’s next?” for cross-border trucking pilot program

Oct. 2, 2014

In a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, an association that represents professional truck drivers, asked the agency to provide details on future plans now that the Mexico cross-border pilot trucking program has expired. The three-year pilot program officially ended October 1, 2014.

OOIDA officials asked FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling to provide clarification regarding several concerns about the program’s failure to meet significant goals set by the FMCSA. “The data generated by the program clearly shows that the program should not be renewed or made permanent,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice-president. “What we would like to know is the agency’s plan going forward and we request that they be transparent about communications with Mexico and analysis of their data, or lack thereof.”

In the letter, OOIDA spells out a list of concerns about the validity of data collected during the program. FMCSA had initially said that 46 carriers would need to participate in the program and that at least 4,100 inspections would need to be conducted on those carriers in order for program data to be statistically valid. While more than 5,175 inspections occurred as of July 13, 2014, there have been only 13 program participants, out of more than 132,000 Mexico-domiciled carriers.

Also, two carriers alone have accounted for more than 81% of all inspections and 90% of all crossings, while only 5% of destinations traveled occurred outside the commercial border zone. The letter states that it is OOIDA’s view that because most of the inspection data collected comes from just a few carriers, the data is biased and does not accurately reflect the safety performance of trucks in the pilot, much less the broader Mexican truck fleet.

“More alarming is to note that Mexican motor carriers are not being placed out of service for violations that would warrant such action nor are they being placed out of service at the same rate as US-domiciled trucks and/or drivers for similar violations,” said Spencer. “Such a wide gap in enforcement action raises safety concerns in general, but especially about the program.”

The letter also asks several questions to the acting administrator, among them:

1.  What actions does the agency plan to take regarding the carriers and drivers operating in the current pilot program following October 1, 2014? What authority would FMCSA have to extend the program? Does FMCSA plan to accept applications from new carriers for cross border operating authority after October 1, 2014?

2.  Will FMCSA be establishing a permanent U.S./Mexico Cross Border Trucking Program? If so, under what statutory authority? What timeline does the agency have for moving forward with a permanent program?

3.   FMCSA has never released any analysis of the apparent lack of databases in Mexico collecting the same breadth of information about individual driver behavior, including behavior in personal vehicles, which is relied upon to determine a US driver's continued qualification to hold a CDL. Has it ever performed such an analysis? If so, would the agency make this publicly available?