San Diego Union Tribune

August 22, 2007

Long-haul Mexican truck program needs work


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 testing.

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 program.”

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 report said.

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