Mexican truckers are operating illegally in the United States, the Department of Transportation has confirmed.
Citing roadside inspection data that indicate serious safety violations by Mexican trucks and drivers, the DOT inspector general recommended tough enforcement initiatives to control the problem.
The inspector general’s investigation, which was undertaken at the request of Rep. James Oberstar, R-MN, explains that some Mexican truckers have the right to run in the U.S., but most of those that do operate here are doing so illegally.
There are 8,400 Mexico-based truck and bus companies that have authority to run in the U.S. The vast majority – 98% of them – are restricted to the commercial zones along the four southern border states, provided they meet U.S. safety standards.
The other 2%, totaling 168 companies, may operate beyond the commercial zones. About 150 of these claim U.S. ownership, 12 are bus companies, five have long-standing authority and one uses the U.S. as a “land bridge” to serve Canada.
Any foreign trucker can cross the U.S. from Mexico to Canada, as long as he is insured, meets the safety requirements and does not do business in this country, the inspector general said.
DOT inspection data show serious safety problems among Mexican vehicles inspected at the border. Of 23,300 inspections in 1998, 41% were placed out of service.
Safety performance improved as the Mexicans got further from the border – even though they were operating without authority. Outside the commercial zones but still within the border states, 13% of the vehicles and 32% of the drivers were placed out of service. Outside of the border states, 19% of the vehicles and 17% of the drivers were placed out of service. DOT did not distinguish between trucks and buses in this analysis.
The inspector general’s report will keep the Mexican trucker issue boiling on Capitol Hill. It surely will fuel resistance to opening the border to Mexican truckers next year, as is called for under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Oberstar said the report affirms the need for truck safety reform legislation now moving in Congress. Among the provisions of that legislation is one that gives the secretary of transportation the authority to hit illegal Mexican truckers with stiff penalties.
For his part, the inspector general recommended additional measures to correct shortcomings in DOT’s data and enforcement capabilities:
* Require Mexican truckers to verify ownership and citizenship before they get authority, and set up a system to notify those whose authority has been revoked.
* Develop regular, automated reports that identify truckers operating without authority.
* Investigate truckers found operating without authority – and deny them entry.
* Establish a border unit to make sure the rules are enforced.