OOIDA responds to OIG Cross Border Audit

Mexican truckers taking a break at the toll booths between Monterrey and Saltillo
Mexican truckers taking a break at the toll booths between Monterrey and Saltillo

The Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), whose  continued efforts to stop Mexican trucks over the past two decades has failed miserably, responded this afternoon to the findings of the Cross Border Pilot Program final audit released this morning.

As usual, instead of accepting the facts, they had to put their own spin on the report, accusing FMCSA of padding the numbers and swaying the results as the program came to an end.

Even more discerning is seeing where they are changing the language and the meaning of the OIG’s final product to suit their agenda of misinformation to their members and the public at large.

An example of this is where the write begins her “analysis” with the ludicrous claim that the pilot program failed to prove that all Mexico-based motor carriers should be granted full access to U.S. highways. The pilot program was never meant to prove that “all” Mexico based motor carriers should be granted access, only that a representative sample, which we had, were able to operate safely and within our regulatory framework if granted access. This was proven.

In short, the lackluster participation in the program of only 15 carriers failed to prove that any and all Mexico-based trucks could safely operate long-haul in the U.S., the audit concluded.

Once again, that wasn’t the case. The audit stated quite succinctly;

Because the pilot program lacked an adequate number of participants, we could not determine with confidence whether the 15 carriers are representative.9 Without being able to determine the
representativeness of the 15 carriers, one cannot project the safety performance for the population of Mexico-domiciled carriers that may qualify for long-haul operating authority in the future.

That is quite a stretch between what OOIDA would have you believe and what the Inspector General relayed in the final report.

OOIDA went on skirting the truth when it came to CDL and Medical certifications, two issues which have been used unsuccessfully multiple times in federal lawsuits attempting to stop Mexican carriers from operating in the United States.

That participation was low even though FMCSA made it easier by exempting the participants from U.S. CDL, medical certification, and drug testing rules.

They fail to mention rulings to the contrary by the D.C. Court of Appeals nor are they troubled that Canadian drivers are allowed to operate in the United States using their Canadian CDL’s and separate medical certifications.

OOIDA also accuses FMCSA of “skewing” the numbers by using inspection data obtained from non-participating drivers who operate a pilot program approved truck doing cross border drayage, an issue I’ve also had. However, it appears this data was not used when determining fitness of the Mexican fleets in general. Even when this subset of data was excused, FMCSA has enough inspections to meet their intended goal.

OOIDA further accuses FMCSA of easing Out of Service (OOS) criteria in order to make the Mexicans outshine their American and Canadian competition.

One example is the regulation that drivers must be able to communicate in the country in which the driver/carrier is operating. If the driver is unable to communicate sufficiently, the driver is to be put out of service.

Again, we see the bias against Mexican drivers that we don’t see against Canadian drivers, many of whom from French Quebec and the so-called “New Canadians” from the middle east who either cannot or refuse to speak English, the latter often having three generations riding in one truck to facilitate limited communications.

But here’s  the rubon this whole claim of favoritism when it concerns 49 C.F.R. § 391.11(b)(2) the English proficiency provision, and something OOIDA in their article deliberately fails to report on.

Effective April 1, 2015, CVSA member jurisdictions will no longer place a driver OOS for a violation of this U.S. regulation. However, the specific regulation will still exist and officers can note the violation on inspection reports and/or issue citations. California has never adopted into the CVC an equivalent violation for enforcement within the state. Florida, after being sued on a civil rights violation now refuses to enforce the rule and Texas, where most of us on the southern border are bi-lingual, laughs at the idea of placing a driver OOS.

The California Construction Trucking Association expanded on this and explained, something that OOIDA is aware of. CalConTrk wrote:

When reviewing motor carrier data from the cross-border pilot project, violations of §391.11(b) (2) were the most frequently cited in negatively affecting motor carrier SMS scores within the Driver Fitness BASIC. In California when violations were noted it was primarily done by U.S. inspectors at the border – not CHP officers. Deficient “scores” within any BASIC can be used by law enforcement as a pretext to perform a compliance review of a motor carriers safety practices. Data is also used by insurance companies to evaluate risk and can lead to dramatic increases in the cost of insurance or even cancellation of coverage.

When reviewing motor carrier data from the cross-border pilot project, violations of §391.11(b) (2) were the most frequently cited in negatively affecting motor carrier SMS scores within the Driver Fitness BASIC. In California when violations were noted it was primarily done by U.S. inspectors at the border – not CHP officers. Deficient “scores” within any BASIC can be used by law enforcement as a pretext to perform a compliance review of a motor carriers safety practices. Data is also used by insurance companies to evaluate risk and can lead to dramatic increases in the cost of insurance or even cancellation of coverage.

And it is very hypocritical of OOIDA to demand OOS enforcement of this rule when they themselves are at the forefront of urging FMCSA to allow drivers who do not speak English to be allowed to obtain a CDL.

Yes, you heard me correctly. OOIDA  is behind the push for FMCSA to allow deaf and dumb drivers, those whose onl language is “sign language” to obtain a CDL and operate in interstate commerce.

Recent action by FMCSA to issue waivers for deaf drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle exempting them from this regulation is also acting to undermine the continued validity of maintaining the requirement. Many of the hearing impaired drivers issued waivers do not speak English. CVSA’s petition is very clear in stating there is a lack of evidence supporting a link between “language issues and highway safety.”

WHAT IS SAFETY?

According to OOIDA, where the Mexican truckers are concerned, they must be beyond perfect, in everything they do. There is no room for error of any type. They must fluently speak Oxford (Alabama) English without an accent, have trucks that are perfectly maintained and never ever be involved in an accident. During the Pilot Program, the was one (1) accident reported, in San Diego county on private property when a speeding automobile crossed into the lane of a program participant and collided. Automobiles fault, as it is 80% of the time according to AAA in big rig vs. automobile accidents. There were also 9 reported accidents from within the border zone in the time period.

Safety to me would seem to be the lack of accidents and the extremely good inspection number, that OOIDA claims are skewed using whatever version of “rithmetic” is handy to them

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS?

Mexico is going to be able to use the report as vindication that their carriers are able to operate safely and comply with U.S. laws – the lack of enough participating carriers wasn’t their problem – it was Washington’s putting many costly and onerous pre-conditions in-place for participation in the pilot project, and they will be right to do so and they have the threat of $38 billion dollars in tariffs and damages to dangle over the heads of lawmakers.

Will cross-border trucking be “normalized” similar to what the Canadians enjoy, I think if the President tells the Secretary to swing the door open, it’ll be done (it won’t really be FMCSA making the decision as the report indicates).

The President is certainly pushing for increased free trade deals indicative that he is not adverse to these policies. However,  I don’t know if the Administration wants to antagonize the Teamsters and the bogus safety advocates right now (OOIDA’s concerns and rhetoric mean nothing to the Administration even though they’ll act as if they are the big swinging dicks on this issue) since they have both suffered legislative set-backs recently and especially with the Teamsters, the money they toss around during this next election cycle is going to be “respected.” On the other hand, I think Washington is also rightly concerned about retaliation (tariffs) from Mexico if this barrier isn’t removed.

At the end of the day, politics, and the money associated with the lobbyists and not the facts, will carry the issue. For OOIDA, they could care less of job losses, market loss or billions of dollars in tariffs if they think they can keep a Mexican carrier out of the US.

 

[GARD]

This post is part of the following threads: Mexico Cross Border Pilot Program, NAFTA – ongoing stories on this site. View the thread timelines for more context on this post.