U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced late Monday that U.S. trucks will begin operating in Mexico for the first time ever - starting at the same time Mexican trucks begin operating north of the commercial border
zone in the U.S. as part of a cross-border trucking demonstration program.
The secretary noted that the change was based on recent conversations with the Mexican government and the U.S. Congress.
"We are working to give American truckers an unprecedented opportunity to compete in a substantial new market," Peters said. "This announcement puts the program on track to lower costs for U.S. consumers, make our economy more competitive and give U.S. truckers new business opportunities."
In February, the Department of Transportation announced a yearlong demonstration program to expand cross-border trucking operations with Mexico. The program is designed to eliminate the current cumbersome, outdated and costly system of moving freight across the border, and replace it with an efficient, transparent and safe cross-border trucking process.
The program's safety developments have been guided by, but not limited to, requirements established by Congress in 2002. The department's independent Inspector General has also certified that the program substantially meets eight criteria addressing inspector training, inspection facilities and the development of safety procedures. The department has invested $500 million since 1995 to modernize border safety facilities and hire and train the more than 500 federal and state inspectors who inspect trucks crossing the border every day.
As part of the program, U.S. inspectors will conduct in-person safety audits to ensure participating Mexican companies comply with U.S. safety regulations. The department also will require all Mexican truck drivers to hold a valid commercial drivers license, comply with U.S. medical requirements, comply with all U.S. hours of service rules and be able to understand questions and directions in English.
Mexican truck companies that are allowed to participate must have insurance with a U.S.-licensed firm and meet all U.S. safety standards, including drug and alcohol testing. Companies that meet these stringent standards will be allowed to make international pick up and deliveries only.
The elements of the trucking program are discussed in a Federal Register notice issued Monday. The department is seeking comment over the next 30 days on the program. The notice is available online at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.