FMCSA missing mark on compliance reviews of Mexican carriers: Report

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Aug. 7, 2023:

DOT Inspector General: FMCSA not conducting timely reviews of Mexico-based carriers

In a new report issued Aug. 2, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General said that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was not always timely in conducting compliance reviews of Mexico-based cross-border carriers operating under provisional authority.

OIG found that the agency “generally followed federal regulations and its standard operating procedures and processes” in authorizing and monitoring Mexico-domiciled and Mexican-owned or -controlled motor carriers with authority to operate beyond the United States-Mexico border commercial zones. Investigation also found that FMCSA “has an adequate tracking system to determine when carriers are due for a review to ensure they are complying with these regulations.”

FMCSA, however, “did not always conduct timely compliance reviews” of those carriers, hindering the agency’s “ability to fully assess and mitigate carrier safety risks, resulting in increased risk that unsafe carriers may be operating on the Nation’s roadways.”

Federal regulations require FMCSA to conduct a compliance review on Mexico-domiciled carriers within 18 months of the agency issuing provisional operating authority. OIG reviewed 83 MX carriers that received authority as of Jan. 1, 2023, and found that 53 (64%) did not receive a compliance review within 18 months of receiving provisional operating authority. Additionally, 38 of those 53 carriers had not received a compliance review at all after having had provisional authority for an average of more than 40 months, with the longest for more than 85 months. 

[Related: First cross-border Mexican fleet talks challenges, standards of operating in U.S.]

FMCSA had also not conducted a compliance review on a cross-border carrier since 2020, OIG found. An FMCSA official told OIG that the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of adequate roadside inspection data were among the reasons for not meeting the timeliness requirement.

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OIG did find, however, that MX carriers had lower out-of-service rates than U.S.-based carriers, with a 15% vehicle OOS rate (compared to 22% for U.S. carriers) and a driver OOS rate of under 1% (compared to 7% for U.S. carriers).

To improve its compliance review timeliness, OIG offered the following recommendations to FMSCA:

  • Revise FMCSA’s policy to define and allow for justifications for delaying compliance reviews beyond 18 months, and if delayed, determine how long a carrier should be permitted to continue to operate under provisional authority without a compliance review and require documentation of a decision to delay a carrier’s review.
  • Determine whether a revision to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations is necessary to implement the compliance review policy revisions.
  • Develop and implement a recovery plan to complete compliance reviews for those carriers operating for more than 18 months under provisional authority and to establish a compliance review scheduling system for future provisional carriers.

[Related: Mexico-based trucker shut down following crash, failed drug test]

Volvo, Mack recall electric trucks for battery issues

Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks are recalling their respective battery-electric trucks due to an issue with the high-voltage battery that could cause it to short circuit and spark a fire.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents state that Volvo is recalling approximately 172 model year 2020-’24 VNR Electric trucks because the rivnut threaded inserts inside the high-voltage battery may be over-tightened and break, which could result in a short circuit.

Mack is recalling approximately nine model year 2022-’23 LR battery-electric trucks for the same issue.

Dealers will replace the batteries, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed Sept. 15. Owners may contact Volvo Trucks' customer service at 800-528-6586 with recall number RVXX2308, and Mack Trucks’ customer service at 800-866-1177 with recall number SC0447. NHTSA’s recall number for Volvo is 23V-512, and its recall number for Mack is 23V-514.

[Related: Nikola truck erupts in flames again, company still suspects 'foul play']

CDOT releases new videos to help truckers traverse mountains

As part of “The Mountain Rules” truck driver education series, the Colorado Department of Transportation is releasing three new videos aimed at educating and preparing truck drivers -- especially those from out of state -- for the unique challenges they face on Colorado’s mountain highways.

The videos are specifically focused on safe winter driving, navigating construction work zones, and handling hot brakes.

“We know that our state’s terrain and unpredictable weather conditions create immense challenges for semitruck drivers,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “We’ve created this series as a way to equip truck drivers with the necessary knowledge and awareness to safely and confidently navigate our highways, especially in the high country.”

“The Mountain Rules” series was developed by CDOT, in partnership with the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association in 2019. All videos in the series emphasize the importance of being prepared for the specific obstacles truck drivers face when traveling through the state, CDOT said.

CDOT and its partners encourage all truck drivers to educate themselves and view the videos, which can be found on CDOT’s YouTube channel and at freight.COtrip.org. The videos also are distributed to truck driving schools, trucking companies, and other trucking-related entities.

[Related: Trucker gets 110 years in prison after 2019 fatal crash in Colorado]

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