An independent panel evaluating the controversial cross-border trucking demonstration program says while there were no crashes involving Mexican carriers in the project and out of service rates were low, there were not enough participants for a meaningful comparison.

The panel found that the level of participation fell far short of what the DOT had projected, and that most of the demonstration trucks operated only within the border zone. Only 29 carriers, not the 100 that FMCSA projected, were granted long-haul operating authority during the 12 months to travel beyond the border commercial zone. Two of the carriers dropped out of the project, two of the remaining carriers never even crossed into the U.S., meaning only 25 Mexican carriers actually participated, operating about 100 trucks total.

The number of carriers participating "was too small for making statistical projections ... [about] the carriers who ... are likely to seek such long-haul operating authority in the future," the panel said. "To accurately assess the safety performance of carriers in the demonstration project, FMCSA would need a larger sample of Mexican carriers."

While more than 12,000 truck crossings were made into the U.S. by the participants during the 12-month period, less than 15 percent went beyond the border commercial zones.

There were no crashes involving the Mexico-domiciled trucks in the project. During the project, more than 7,000 safety inspections were conducted on the participating drivers and more than 1,400 on the participating trucks, in addition to the every-truck-every-time checks done at the border-crossing facilities. Less than 1 percent of the driver inspections results in out of service violations, which is lower than the rates of U.S.-domiciled carriers. The vehicle out-of-service rate of 8.7 percent was less than half the rate for all U.S. domiciled carriers.

The panel also noted that "there are far more Mexican carriers operating legally beyond the border commercial zone than ther were in the demonstration project -- 861 versus 27." These carriers operate under authority granted between 1982 and 1994. The percentage of vehicles placed out of service during roadside safety inspections for these "grandfathered" carriers was 24 percent, compared to just under 9 percent for the demonstration project carriers and 23 percent for all U.S. carriers. The mechanisms for checking the participants in the pilot program are more stringent than what is in place for the grandfathered carriers and their 1,700 trucks.

The panel's work verified that FMCSA implemented policies and regulations regarding admitting Mexico-domiciled carriers into the demonstration project, establishing safety mechanisms at the border, ensuring enforcement of safety rules by state enforcement officials, and carrying out the DOT's commitment to "check every truck and driver every time" they cross the border. (This is not an inspection, but rather involved a federal inspector checking a driver's license and checking the inspection decal on the truck to make sure it had been inspected within the last 90 days.)

The review did not examine security matters, environmental concerns, or customs and immigration issues.

You can download the entire report here: