Senator calls cross-border pilot program ‘lax’

In his second letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood since May, the Senate transportation committee chairman expressed alarm over the U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking program.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s Oct. 31 letter opened with “I am deeply concerned about what appears to be the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s lax oversight of the cross-border pilot program.”

The West Virginia Democrat said he was concerned about the first two Mexican carriers to pass pre-authorization safety audits, which the agency conducts on Mexican carrier applicants to verify program compliance.

The agency granted “permanent operating authority” to Transportes Olympic, based on its time in the previous FMCSA cross-border program and using the carrier’s “nearly three-year-old compliance review,” wrote Rockefeller, who heads the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee.

He also noted that Grupo Behr De Baja had cleared its PASA, but agency officials delayed granting authority so they could further investigate claims made by various organizations about that carrier.

The FMCSA was unavailable for comment Nov. 1.

In May Rockefeller argued the program would threaten competitiveness of U.S. trucking firms, transfer the cost of safety upgrades on Mexican trucking fleets to Americans and fail to eliminate all of Mexico’s retaliatory actions.

After Congress voted to end the previous FMCSA cross-border program in 2009, Canacar, Mexico’s trucking trade association, filed a notice of arbitration against the United States. “If the U.S. complies with its NAFTA obligations, it would open up a huge market for Mexican carriers to utilize their competitive advantage,”  Canacar’s notice stated.

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