Cross-border trucking needs revisions, audit says

The cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico needs procedural and monitoring improvement and lacks sufficient data and participation to draw safety conclusions, according to the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General’s latest audit.

The oversight agency’s Aug. 16 report included the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s formal response to recommendations auditors made concerning the 11-month old program.

The FMCSA disagreed with the OIG’s call for revision to quality assurance procedures for pre–authorization safety audits or PASAs. These carrier reviews verify compliance in areas that include drug and alcohol testing, hours-of-service, insurance, vehicle maintenance and driver qualification.

Auditors reported that in two of three instances they reviewed, FMCSA’s quality assurance personnel approved PASA results for Mexican carriers before verifying that Mexico’s transportation ministry had tested 18 prospective pilot program driver qualifications for commercial driver’s licenses.

By law, the agency must verify Mexico has tested prospective drivers’ qualifications. The oversight did not result in Federal Register publications of PASA results or approval of unqualified drivers, but showed FMCSA had not updated its quality assurance PASA procedures to reflect this requirement, the auditors wrote.

Auditors also recommended that the agency ensure the accuracy of drug and alcohol statistical summary reports and random drug and alcohol testing pools before approving PASAs.

FMCSA responded that it planned to reemphasize procedures in a refresher training session scheduled for last month. It will continue monitoring implementation of these procedures, but does not plan to make revisions.

The agency added that the PASA recommendations were based on isolated events observed during the audit.

The OIG concluded that the agency’s “willingness to address issues raised” was sufficient to address PASA concerns, but they would revisit these issues during their next report. The auditors requested the FMCSA provide documentation of its June 11 PASA policy and the August refresher training roster to close the recommendation.

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The program requires at least 4,100 inspections of 46 carriers over a three-year period to yield a statistically valid analysis of participants’ safety and allow reliable statistical projections regarding safety.

At the time of the audit, four carriers had authority and the agency had another 30 carrier applications pending. Transportes Olympic, a one-truck, two-driver carrier was the only participant that had traveled beyond the border zone.

Auditors said the program’s plan lacked periodic reviews of electronic monitoring data quality and reporting. Instead, the agency “relied heavily on a federally required self–certification made by the equipment manufacturer and has used a reactive approach toward identifying data issues.”

FMCSA officials did agree with recommendations regarding policy for road sign testing and detecting cabotage violations. Auditors said the agency was taking sufficient steps to improve the road sign testing component, but the recommendation would remain open pending documentation of its actions.

The program prohibits cabotage, which is when participating carriers pick up cargo from one U.S. location and deliver it to another point within the United States.

Teletrac holds the contract for installation and monitoring of electronic monitoring equipment in program trucks, which includes a clause to develop an automated means of detecting cabatoge. Auditors concurred with the agency’s statement that program participation is currently too low to warrant this level of support.

The OIG stated will it evaluate FMCSA’s actions to address all recommendations during its Congressionally mandated final audit, which is due six months after the program ends.