The U.S. General Accounting Office released a report Jan. 8 strongly critical of efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments to ensure Mexican trucks operating in the U.S. will be compliant with safety regulations.
The report, asked for by Democrats on several Congressional committees, said the U.S. Department of Transportation had not advanced far enough to ensure safe operation of Mexican trucks.
The GAO reports that progress has been made but there is still uncertainty about the extent to which Mexican commercial trucks meet U.S. safety standards. The GAO concluded:
The Bush administration and Congress recently cleared the way for Mexican trucks to operate on U.S. highways as a condition of the North America Free Trade Agreement. Carriers who own those trucks must meet the same stringent rules as U.S. carriers, rules that may keep the number of carriers taking part low.
Indeed, the GAO found that relatively few Mexican carriers are expected to initially operate beyond the current commercial zones once the U.S. fully opens its borders because they lack established business relationships, will have trouble obtaining competitively priced insurance and won’t be able to afford registration fees. The GAO also said congestion at the border would make long-haul operations less profitable. Over time, however, the GAO expects that number to increase.
The report also said that steps taken by the Mexican government to improve safety regulations and emission standards were too recent to be assessed.
James Hoffa, Teamsters General President, said the U.S. lacks the sufficient inspection resources at the border to ensure the safety of the American traveling public and Mexico lacks adequate standards and enforcement to ensure the safety of their trucking system, according to published reports.
The GAO recommended that the DOT develop and implement a coordinated operational safety plan at the Southwest border.