WASHINGTON – U.S.
transportation officials have made progress in complying
with congressional conditions for opening the border to
long-haul Mexican truck traffic, but more improvements are
needed, according to a report released yesterday.
The Department of Transportation's inspector general
said the law enforcement database used to look up Mexican
drivers' traffic violations needs to be improved because
of “data inconsistencies and reporting problems.”
Identifying another weakness, the report urged the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make sure
controls are in place to ensure the validity of specimens
collected from Mexican drivers for alcohol and drug
The report from the inspector general was required as
part of a 2002 bill passed by Congress to make the
cross-border trucking program safer.
The administration is preparing to begin a one-year
pilot program to test the impact of opening the
U.S.-Mexico border to trucks from either country, as
required by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Currently, Mexican trucks are allowed to travel only
within a 25-mile border zone. U.S. trucks are not
permitted in Mexico.
The program's opponents, including the Teamsters union
and several safety organizations, contend that Mexican
truckers pose a risk on U.S. highways.
The Bush administration is awaiting a more
comprehensive assessment from the inspector general before
it can start the program.
In the latest report, the inspector general credited
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with
making “continual improvement in the border safety
The inspector general said the agency has increased the
number of inspectors at the southern border – including
California – to 254 at present from 13 in 1998.
The number of Mexican truck drivers removed from
service because of safety violations also has fallen, the