March 2007

BACKGROUND:  U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plan to open the U.S. border with Mexico to a select group of 100 Mexican motor carriers as part of a so-called pilot or demonstration program.  Section 350 of the 2002 DOT Appropriations Act (2001) requires DOT to assure that trucks and drivers from Mexico will meet U.S. safety standards and not endanger the U.S. population while traveling on our highways.  Fifteen years after signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and six years after Congress imposed safety benchmarks in Section 350, safety problems persist at the border.

TAKE ACTION NOW:  Call, email, or fax your Senators.  Their contact information can be easily found at www.senate.gov.   Urge them to support S 965, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007.  This bill includes a section that would require DOT to comply with the safety regulations in Section 350 before opening the border and to obtain comment and input from the
public about how the pilot program is going to be conducted.


Driver Violations:  Drivers that have been stopped on U.S. highways have high out of service (OOS) rates for operating without a drivers license, for not having a legal license to operate the vehicle they were driving, and for not having hours of service (HOS) logbooks and records of duty status (RODS) as required under U.S. law. Vehicle Violations:  Vehicles that have been stopped on U.S. highway have high rates of poorly adjusted brakes
and inoperable lamps.

Drug/Alcohol Testing:  Mexico does not require workplace drug and alcohol testing of truck drivers as under U.S. law There are no certified drug/alcohol testing laboratories in Mexico ; Samples collected in Mexico have to be sent to a U.S. lab for analysis; The DOT Inspector General cannot verify that drug/alcohol sample collection procedures in Mexico meet U.S. standards for quality, purity and security; Samples collected at the U.S. border may prove more reliable, but letting drivers know when and where they will be tested defeats the purpose of random testing and does not address U.S. requirements for pre-employment and reasonable suspicion testing. Hours of Service:  In addition to not maintaining HOS records, Mexico has no enforced HOS requirements so drivers can operate for an unlimited number of hours within Mexico and arrive at the U.S. border fatigued.  FMCSA admits that it cannot penalize a driver for actions that occurred in Mexico if they have a logbook and other required records. Operating Authority Enforcement:  Half of the U.S. States either have not enforced the laws against vehicles that lack operating authority or have problems obtaining the information needed to confirm if a vehicle lacks operating authority. Data Quality:  States are required to supply data on violations and convictions of Mexican drivers in the U.S. to a federal database.  There have been serious problems with reporting these violations and convictions in each border State.  About one-quarter (25%) of the requests for information on Mexican drivers indicate that the driver has a violation or conviction. Bus Safety Inspections:  The DOT Inspector General found that further improvements are needed at border crossings including inspection ramps and full-time personnel to accommodate bus and motorcoach inspections.  In order to evade the fact that preparations for bus inspections are not complete, buses and motorcoaches are not included in the pilot program.  Hazardous Materials:  The U.S. and Mexico have not reached agreement regarding the movement of placarded hazardous materials shipments from Mexico into the U.S. and beyond the commercial border zones.  U.S. law requires criminal background checks be performed for CDL drivers with a hazardous materials endorsement.  In order to evade the fact that the safety of cross-border hazardous materials shipments has not been addressed, it also excluded. Vehicles Not Built to U.S. Standards:  Federal law requires that vehicles operated in the U.S. must meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards.  Until 1996, most trucks and buses built in Mexico were not built to U.S. standards.  Since then, an unknown number of trucks have not included safety equipment required by U.S. standards, such as antilock braking systems.  Unless the vehicle has a certification label, border inspectors will
not be able to determine whether a truck or bus entering the U.S. is as safe as vehicles built to the U.S. safety standards.

The DOT Border Pilot Program is Illegal

The safety problems mentioned above are covered by Section 350, which requires that DOT must completely fulfill these goals before the border with Mexico can be opened.  Until those requirements have been fully completed, the border cannot legally be opened to any trucks.  In addition, federal law governs how pilot programs must be carried out, and sets certain safety and procedural criteria that must be met.  Section 4007, Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (1998).  DOT and FMCSA have not complied with that law.  Section 4001 in S 965 would require them to do so.