U.S., Mexico sign cross-border agreement

Jill Dunn | July 06, 2011

U.S. and Mexican officials have signed an agreement to end the cross-border trucking dispute under which Mexican carriers could be granted provisional operating authority in as early as a month.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes Dionisio Arturo Pèrez-Jàcome Friscione signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Mexico City on July 6.

The FMCSA’s cross-border pilot program mandates Mexican carriers meet all U.S. Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The FMCSA will provide and pay for electronic monitoring systems to track hours-of-service compliance at a maximum cost of $2.5 million.

For Mexican program participants, the agency will review the complete driving record of each driver and require all drug testing samples to be analyzed in U.S. labs. It will assess drivers of their comprehension of English and U.S. traffic signs.

Mexico will provide reciprocal authority for U.S. carriers to engage in cross-border long-haul operations in that country. Neither nation can engage in domestic carriage of goods point-to-point in the other country.

The memorandum does not apply to hazmat carriers or carriers engaged in the cross-border transportation of passengers.

Mexico agreed to a phased-in lifting of retaliatory tariffs imposed on many U.S. goods following Congress’ vote to end a previous program in March 2009.

Following the agreement announcement, Rep. Peter DeFazio submitted legislation to limit the administration’s authority to “unilaterally decide how and when to open the U.S.-Mexico border without input from Congress.” The Oregon Democrat’s bill would also limit use of the Highway Trust Fund to pay for EOBRs for Mexican truckers.

The American Trucking Associations, business and farming organizations have supported the cross-border program. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters and some safety groups have opposed it.

OOIDA said it has filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It has asked the court to determine if the DOT has legally implemented the program.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston said the program will hurt U.S. trucking jobs and place an undue burden on taxpayers, and he blasted the DOT’s pledge of transparency to the public over the program. “If the agreement is good for the U.S. why the hell is he (Secretary LaHood) sneaking down there to sign it?” Johnston said in a news release. “So much for their supposed transparency.”

The three-phase pilot program requires Mexican carriers to have provisional authority for an 18-month minimum. Carriers that participate safely in the previous cross-border program will receive credit for time in the first program and will not to be subject to Stage 1 inspections.

Soon, the FMCSA will publish a 79-page notice in the Federal Register of intent to begin the pilot program. The FR notice will also be a response to the 2,254 comments or docket submissions to its FR notice last April, which announced plans to initiate the program. Many comments were concerns about the violence in Mexico and that the pilot program will take away U.S. jobs.

The FR notice and agreement may be read here.

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