Audit shows problems with cross-border trucking program - The Packer

Audit shows problems with cross-border trucking program

09/06/2012 10:33:00 AM
Coral Beach

Flag of Mexico and truckThe future of the cross-border pilot program for Mexico-based trucking companies is unsure at best, according to a federal audit, and that could be bad news for U.S. produce exporters.

If the program fails, Mexico could reinstitute retaliatory tariffs on U.S. produce.

The 20% tariffs hit everything from potatoes to pears, costing U.S. growers and shippers millions.

Mark Powers, vice president of international trade and transportation for the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash., said U.S. growers want the cross-border program to succeed.

“We also hope if Mexican (trucking) firms show they are not really interested … that their government will take that into consideration when looking at potential tariffs,” Powers said.

The North American Free Trade Act, effective in 1994, requires the U.S. to allow cross-border trucking, but legal challenges by U.S. trucking oranizations kept the Mexican trucks out for more than a decade.

The pilot program gained approval from President Obama and his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon in July 2011. The first Mexican truck came into the U.S. in October 2011.

Also in October 2011, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General began an audit of the program, as required by Congress. The audit period ran through May 2012, but wasn’t published until Aug. 16.

Participation is so low that statistically valid data required by Congress cannot be collected, according to the audit.

For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had estimated that 46 companies would need to participate in the three-year program to reach the target of 4,100 inspections. When auditors checked, four companies were participating with a total of four trucks and five drivers. FMCSA had done 89 inspections.

The audit also found problems with the FMCSA’s pre-assessments, especially in the area of testing drivers for English proficiency, which is required. The auditors observed three tests and in two of them the drivers were allowed to answer in Spanish.

The OIG recommended that drivers be required to answer in English and that FMCSA test them on 22 traffic signs, rather than a random sampling of four. The agency agreed to make those changes.

Other trucking companies have applied to participate in the program and the OIG audit report said if enough gain approval there may be a chance that enough data will be generated to accurately assess the program. The OIG is required to follow up with another audit after the three-year pilot program ends.

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Porter M. Corn    
Laredo, Texas  |  September, 06, 2012 at 10:54 AM

If the program fails, Mexico will have every right to re-apply the tariffs. There is nothing in the NAFTA accords requiring "pilot programs" nor any of the 22 pre- conditions listed in 350(c). These are all tools of opponents hoping to discourage Mexican carriers from wanting to operate in this country. The low participation can be directly attributed to groups such as OOIDA using the comment period to delay by any means approval of applicants and to intimidate and discourage others from seeking authority. Statistical evidence exists showing that a broad cross section of Mexican trucks are perfectly capable of operating under our rules and regulations, safely and professionally. Anyone that is interested is welcome to see for themselves.

Ted Schultze    
MN  |  September, 07, 2012 at 09:18 AM

Why do I get the feeling that the teamsters continue to fight this? I don't think you have to speak English to know what road signs mean. I don't have to speak the language to travel in the 27 countries I have visited and I have rented a car in almost all of them.

Ron Chapman    
Houston  |  September, 07, 2012 at 11:07 AM

If I or my drivers were in Mexico we would have to speak and understand Spanish and to be able to read "al" road signs, not just 22!

d brown    
new ulm  |  September, 07, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Doesnt surprise me one bit. All politicians are on the take so why shouldnt the rest of the mere working force.

d brown    
new ulm mn  |  September, 07, 2012 at 12:18 PM

amen brother!!!

Nogales Az  |  September, 07, 2012 at 08:47 PM

The biggest hurdle that the Mexican truckers have are themselves. Mexican drivers and equipment are not the issue, it is the lack of organizational structure to be able to establish a fluid communication and counter issues that arise by opponents. Mexicans have little to zero organizational experience in order for them to present an 'all inclusive test sample as a group' vs a well organized, well established, very experienced group with plenty of experience in lobbying and basically defending their interests. Those would be the political party of the 'teamsters'. For Mexican truckers this treaty represents an opportunity, but if they lack the experience of becoming organized and making a case for themselves, they will keep relying on the leverage placed upon on other commodities every time that they fail to deliver. One option is for a Mexican trucking company to set up shop in the states, just as other foreigners have done from other countries.

Car Hauler    
va  |  September, 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM

Why are we exporting jobs? or at least trying too. The idea that we are going to just let all our jobs leave has not worked, is not working, and will NEVER work. The government needs to abandon this nonsense and focus on saving its own economy -car hauler

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