Transportation agency to update cross-border regulations

Published March, 21 2002

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is asking for comments on several interim measures that impact Mexican carriers operating in the United States and the agents who will inspect them.

Two proposed rules that will soon be published in the Federal Register would require Mexican carriers to submit new applications if they operate in U.S. commercial zones or municipalities near the border, or if they want to operate in the United States outside those commercial zones.

The Bush administration has asked FMCSA to develop rules allowing Mexican carriers to operate safely on U.S. highways as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under the terms of NAFTA, carriers in both countries are allowed to cross the Mexican border to deliver loads, but the United States has blocked that measure for five years due to safety concerns.

FMCSA announced rules to certify Mexican carriers last year. The two notices of proposed rulemaking, FMCSA-1998-3298 and FMCSA-1998-3297, update those rules. Mexican carriers that sought to expand their operating area beyond the border last year must reapply under the new rules, if they are finalized.

The regulations will those carriers to have a drug and alcohol-testing program, a system of compliance with U.S. federal hours-of-service requirements, adequate data and safety management systems, and valid insurance with a U.S. registered insurance company. The carrier’s ability to meet these requirements will be verified by a safety audit conducted by qualified U.S. inspectors prior to receiving provisional authority to operate to and from the U.S. At least half of these safety audits, which are to be conducted by qualified inspectors, must take place in Mexico.

“President Bush and I are committed to extending the benefits of free trade throughout North America while ensuring that a strict and rigorous safety regime is established and enforced,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. “The steps taken today will help ensure that all trucks, buses and drivers entering the United States from Mexico meet U.S. safety standards and operate safely on U.S. roads when we implement the truck and bus provisions of NAFTA.”

The five rules announced March 14 are being offered to bring current rules into compliance with the 2002 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act signed into law in December. Another of the proposals, docket number FMCSA-2001-10886, would require carriers to ensure that each commercial motor vehicle they operate in interstate commerce displays a label certifying compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards at the time of manufacture. The agency says most carriers operate trucks made in the United States that already meet this standard, but that Mexican and Canadian carriers may have trucks that do not bear such a label. The rule is designed to ensure all trucks carry the label, the agency says.

The fourth rule, docket number FMCSA-1998-3299, would revise the agency’s safety monitoring system and compliance initiative for Mexican carriers. A new law passed since the original system was proposed now requires the DOT to perform a full compliance review on Mexican carriers within 18 months after a fleet is given provisional operating authority.

The final proposal deals with certification of federal, state and local enforcement officials. Each rule has a comment period of 90 days. Comments can be posted to the DOT’s docket via the Web at dms.dot.gov; or sent via mail to: U.S. Department of Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh St., SW, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001; or faxed to (202) 493-2251.

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