FMCSA: Mexican carrier passes review

Jill Dunn | October 13, 2011

Federal officials have named the first Mexican carrier expected to receive provisional operating authority, but will extend its review of a second carrier applicant in the cross-border pilot program.

A month ago, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requested public comment on the first two Mexican carriers to pass Pre-Authorization Safety Audits. The FMCSA conducts PASAs on Mexican carriers applying for long-haul operating authority to verify program compliance.

The agency plans to grant provisional authority to Transportes Olympic, but will further investigate Grupo Behr, it stated in a Federal Register Notice set for publication Oct. 14.

It “defines the initiation of the pilot program as the issuance of long-haul operating authority,” the notice stated.

The FMCSA has not yet granted authority to any of the 11 applicants so far, but has said it expects the program it to begin this month. The agency’s inspector general reported Aug. 19 on the program and the FMCSA provided a response to that report Oct. 5. Federal law mandates both offices provide these congressional reports before initiating the program.

Eleven groups responded to the Federal Register posting of PASA results. Seven commerce and farm products organizations provided favorable comments. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Knight Transportation and the Teamsters union expressed concerns about both applicants.

The FMCSA will conduct additional reviews on Grupo Behr, based on feedback from the Advocates, OOIDA and Teamsters. Agency representatives will only grant provisional authority after it completes these reviews and the groups’ comments are fully addressed in a future Federal Register notice.

Criticism of Grupo included an out-of-service rate of nearly 29 percent, a vehicle maintenance rating of almost 46 percent, its number of vehicle violations and a history of insurance cancellations.

OOIDA, using vehicle identification numbers from inspection reports, questioned if the carrier would be using a 1991 Class 8 Freightliner, which would not comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement of using trucks meeting 1998 or later model emissions standards.

OOIDA also questioned Grupo’s straight truck safety data and how it is affected by Safety Measurement System segmentation and challenged the accuracy of its vehicle Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category, alleging “watered down” scores were used for the group it is compared to in the SMS.

For Transportes Olympic, OOIDA asserted the carrier’s owner also owns two additional U.S.-based carriers with deficient Driver Fitness BASIC scores.

The agency responded that during its application for authority, Transportes Olympic had acknowledged this affiliation and that deficiency was based on a large number of English language proficiency violations. However, in the pilot program, FMCSA tests English proficiency during the PASA and only approves drivers with adequate English language proficiency for participation.

The agency also had received general criticism about what data it made available on applicants. The FMCSA noted it had published the same categories of information in the PASAs conducted during the 2007-2009 project, and allowed the same amount of time for public response.

Inspection information from the recent PASAs will become available in SMS during the monthly upload of the inspections, which also will be publicly available.

In the future, the agency will post applications from Mexican carriers for participation in the program on its pilot program website at the time of publication of PASA results. The applications for Grupo Behr and Olympic have also been added to this site.

The OOIDA has filed to stop the program in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court rejected its request for an emergency stay of the program, but will schedule oral arguments following the completion of brief filings, with the last brief due by Dec. 5.

The Teamsters and Public Citizen also have petitioned a federal appeals court to review the agency’s plans to proceed with a cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico.

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