Driver David López (right) with Mexican trucking
company owner Rafael Godínez, who hopes to have
trucks on U.S. highways.
WASHINGTON – U.S. and Mexican transportation officials
are planning to use a satellite-based vehicle tracking
system from Qualcomm to keep an eye on commercial carriers
from both countries participating in a cross-border
San Diego-based Qualcomm is favored to get the contract
for the project, because the chip-making giant is viewed
as the only company that can provide the needed services,
U.S. transportation officials said yesterday.
The officials said other firms that believe they can
meet the project requirements have until Oct. 12 to
contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Qualcomm did not return phone calls yesterday seeking
information on the tracking system. Its Omnitracs system
uses cellular technology to track mostly long-haul
U.S. government officials said every truck
participating in the controversial pilot project will be
tracked through in-vehicle transponders linked to a global
positioning system that will monitor the transit of
Mexican trucks through the United States and U.S. trucks
The system could be up and running within weeks after a
contract is signed next month, said Melissa Mazzella
DeLaney, spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
“This will give us the ability to monitor every vehicle
from Mexico and ensure all companies are following our
strict safety requirements,” FMCSA Administrator John Hill
said in a statement.
The one-year program to test the safety and
effectiveness of cross-border trucking, which began
earlier this month, allows preapproved U.S. and Mexican
trucks to travel freely beyond the border zone in each
Opponents of the program, including the Teamsters and
several trucking and safety organizations, contend Mexican
trucking companies do not meet U.S. safety standards for
equipment and drivers and will take jobs away from
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the
Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, an opponent
of the program, called the tracking system a sham.
“We kind of liken it to putting hoop earrings on a
pig,” he said.
Spencer said tracking vehicles would not reveal whether
they were following U.S. regulations or operating safely.
Transportation officials said the system would be able
to accurately determine a vehicle's position and monitor
whether drivers were complying with driving time limits
and other rules.
The FMCSA plans to award a one-year contract to
Qualcomm to provide satellite terminals to relay the
location, mileage and other trip details to an operations
center, DeLaney said.
DeLaney declined to estimate the cost of the system
while contract negotiations were under way. But she said
the transportation agency would be able to cancel the
contract should the U.S. Congress follow through with
threats to shut off funding for the pilot project.