WASHINGTON – Qualcomm
has won a federal contract to provide a satellite-based
tracking system for U.S. and Mexican trucks participating
in a contentious experiment that opens the border to
long-haul commercial traffic.
MONICA RUEDA / Associated Press
Mexican and U.S. trucks that participate in a
cross-border pilot program will be tracked with a
satellite-based system made by Qualcomm and required
by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Federal officials said yesterday that the San
Diego-based company's OmniTRACS system will allow the U.S.
government to closely monitor trucks from both countries,
including compliance with regulations that prohibit
truckers from driving more than 11 hours per day.
Although Qualcomm is best-known for its prominent role
as a chip-maker in the wireless industry, the company also
is a major designer of satellite tracking systems for
Qualcomm will provide tracking technology for 100
trucks at a cost of $367,000, officials said.
U.S. transportation officials hope the tracking system
will soften congressional opposition to the two-month-old
pilot project. Five carriers from Mexico and three from
the United States are participating in the program, which
is limited to a maximum of 100 carriers from each country.
“The big thing that it does is give an independent
verification of all the things that we've been saying,”
said John Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration. “It adds support to the idea that
we're serious about enforcing these regulations.”
Qualcomm was awarded a $367,000 contract to
supply its OmniTRACS devices.
The system will track the number of hours that trucks
are on the road, when they cross the border, where they
stop and their speeds, Hill said.
The Qualcomm contract can be canceled at any time.
Both the House and Senate have passed bills to end the
pilot project, but they have yet to craft a compromise
bill to send to President Bush.
Bush supports the program as a first step toward
opening the border to long-haul commercial traffic as
required by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The pilot project has drawn opposition from the
Teamsters union and several transportation and safety
organizations. Critics say the government has failed to
guarantee that Mexican trucks will abide by the same
safety standards as U.S. trucks.
Teamsters spokeswoman Leslie Miller blasted the
satellite surveillance plan.
She said that if the Department of Transportation “is
entering into a . . . contract with Qualcomm to monitor
the Mexican truck program, which in all likelihood will be
shut down very soon, then they are truly wasting the
Qualcomm welcomed the contract, saying in a written
statement that “after a careful selection process, it is
gratifying that (the government has) concluded that
Qualcomm's product is the best wireless communications
solution to help meet their requirements.”
The company declined to answer further questions about
the contract, which is in the form of an interagency
agreement between the Department of Transportation and the
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at
first planned to award the contract to Qualcomm without
competition, saying it had determined that no other
company could meet the specifications. After objections
were raised by competitors, the agency canceled plans to
award a no-bid contract but also determined that it would
take too long to go through the regular bidding process,
agency spokesman Melissa Mazzella DeLaney said.
Instead, the agency contracted with Qualcomm through an
interagency agreement with the Army, which DeLaney said
has procurement agreements with Qualcomm and several other
suppliers. She said Qualcomm outbid other Army suppliers
to provide the system.
“We wanted to get this system on our vehicles . . . as
quickly as we could,” she said.