According to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, Mexican trucks will temporarily be equipped with electronic recorders. Ferro states that this is the only way the FMCSA can ensure that the trucks are monitored.
Ferro, who spoke to trucking executives gathered during the annual meeting of the Truckload Carriers Association, acknowledged that the subject has been a flashpoint among carriers who do not support the idea of the U.S. spending taxpayer money on equipment for Mexican trucks.
She explained that under the North American Free Trade Agreement ("NAFTA"), the U.S. cannot require Mexican carriers to do anything that U.S. carriers are not required to do, but the agency still must provide a way to monitor those carriers for compliance with both the hours of service rules and the cabotage rules that restrict freight hauling between points in the U.S.
That program cost about $250,000 and the budget for the EOBR program is between $500,000 and $700,000, she said.
FMCSA's decision to install the electronic monitors is in light of the agreement to reopen the border to long-distance trucking is key to getting Mexico withdraw the more than $1 billion in tariffs it has levied on U.S. producers in retaliation for shutting down the prior program.
Ferro said the agency will publish its proposal for the border opening in a matter of weeks. At that point the public will have a chance to comment, before the deal is made final.
Border Program Concept
The concept for the border opening envisions a reciprocal, phased-in program, in which Mexico initially will reduces its tariffs by half. The rest of the tariffs would be suspended when the first Mexican carrier is granted operating authority.
The concept contains three elements: pre-operations vetting, monitoring of operations and communications to the public and Congress. Neither hazmat carriers nor buses would be permitted.
Pre-operations vetting would include an application process in which the number of participants in the first phase of the program would be limited to ensure oversight, subject to agreement with Mexico.
Included in the vetting would be are a pre-authority safety audit in which the agency would review the Mexican carrier's safety management program and the records of drivers who would be crossing the border, including their Mexican federal and state records. The drivers would be tested for English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. traffic laws. Mexican carriers' safety performance in Mexico would be reviewed, and the audit would include inspections of the trucks for U.S. safety and emissions compliance.
The "operations" component of the Border Program Concept provides for inspections - including inspections every time a truck crosses the border, for a period of time to be negotiated - and reviews to follow up on the initial screening review. A Mexican carrier would need to clear a Compliance Review and earn a Satisfactory Safety Rating in order to get full operating authority. Also, the FMCSA could conduct compliance reviews of Mexican drug and alcohol testing facilities.