James Hoffa came out of hiding today to respond to the OIG Final Report on FMCSA compliance with Section 350 of the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2002 and as usual, his comments were totally irrelevant, and contrary to what the report suggests. This is the type of comments we’ve come to expect and ignore from Hoffa.
As expected, Hoffa’s initial response to the report was to declare that the “inspector general report shows once and for all that the border should remain closed to unsafe Mexican trucks.”
We don’t disagree with that sentiment. All unsafe trucks, Mexican, Canadian and American, should be banished from America’s highways.
But we know that Hoffa considers ALL Mexican trucks unsafe, despite concrete evidence to the contrary presented in a previous OIG report. Hell, you could take a 2010 Peterbilt from the dealers lot in Monterrey, tag it and put on the signage, and present it to Hoffa, and he would still declare it “unsafe”! What a moron!
Hoffa goes on to state, “This new report raises even more alarms about opening our border to unsafe trucks from Mexico and endangering the lives of drivers in the United States.”
What alarms does the report raise?
That States are responsible for reporting convictions of Mexican driver’s license holders to the Mexican Conviction Database (MCDB), and despite the IG having told FMCSA in an August 2007 audit that there was improvement needed, the report said, “states continue to inconsistently report traffic convictions” of Mexican license holders?
Seems to me that is a problem for the states to resolve, seeing as how it is their responsiblilty. However, there is no statutory requirement for the states nor the Feds to do so.
FMCSA’s acting deputy administrator, Rose A. McMurray had this to say in response.
“The MCDB is not statutorily required and the states are not required to report convictions of Mexican federal commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders to the MCDB, As a result, while the data provides potentially useful information to program managers, trends in the MCDB are not necessarily indicative of the quality or uniformity of enforcement actions.”
“Therefore, FMCSA cautions against drawing conclusions relating to enforcement on the border based on trends in this data. In light of existing limitations with the MCDB data, FMCSA has ongoing efforts to enhance data quality for the MCDB. While FMCSA’s quality control plan has already improved reporting of traffic convictions by the states to the MCDB, FMCSA is pursuing further improvements to evaluate traffic conviction reporting trends and data reporting inconsistencies.”
So it is a non issue. Since there is no statutory requirement for this type of report, or database, the issue is moot.
But if we must make an issue of it, where does the fault lie? With FMCSA? They complied. This is the IG’s summation.
New Mexico’s CY 2008 first quarter convictions were not reported until the second quarter of CY 2008. According to FMCSA, new state staff was not aware of the MCDB reporting requirements.
Arizona reported only 66 convictions for most of CY 2008 (from January to September 2008) in comparison to the 229 convictions reported in CY 2007. FMCSA asserted that Arizona reported all convictions and attributed Arizona’s low CY 2008 reporting to
1. court non-compliance,
2. reduction in CDL-related state law enforcement activities due to budget cuts, and
3. reductions in commercial driving due to the economic downturn
Having been traveling through Arizona several times monthly, I have my doubts that number two is a reason.
And really, when you think about it, what convictions is it going to show? The occasional ticket for not speaking English at the proficiency level Deputy Bubba in Rooster Pooter Alabama requires?
Already, accident data and resulting charges are entered into the FMCSA Safersys database, readily accessible to any law enforcement officer and for that matter, the general public.
The inspector general also reported that the program diverted border officials from inspecting passenger buses. In El Paso, for example, the number of bus inspections fell by 80 percent.
At some California and Texas crossings, passenger buses are still not inspected when they cross the border on evenings, weekends or holidays because there are no inspectors working those shifts.
What the report doesn’t say is historically, Texas DPS License and Weight inspectors, as well as inspectors in other border states, have left the buses alone, so as not to inconvenience the passengers.
While FMCSA of course has jurisdiction, the role of inspecting Mexican trucks and buses is delegated to CVSA trained inspectors backed up by sworn troopers in Texas.
However, after the charter bus crash in Sherman Texas last year, and a couple of single vehicle accidents on US 59 involving Mexican registered buses, the Texas DPS stepped up enforcement.
And for those of you thinking that Mexican buses are “waiting” to come into the country, think again. They’ve been allowed to operate nationwide for many years, under partnership agreements with American bus lines such as Greyhound and Trailways. It’s nothing new.
However, Hoffa, always ready to jump in with fabricated nonsense had this to say.
“This report shows without a doubt that opening the border to Mexican trucks and buses puts an unacceptable strain on our border resources. Federal officials couldn’t keep up with inspections when there were only 118 trucks in the pilot program. If the border were opened to all Mexican trucks, border inspection stations would be completely overwhelmed.”
Think again Jimbo! This doesn’t say one word about border inspectors, which included FMCSA and State Troopers being overwhelmed by a mere 118 trucks. Troopers inspect in various manners and levels, all the trucks that pass through their facilities
FMCSA has continually taken actions to address our recommendations for improvements in the border safety program. While FMCSA’s actions are noteworthy, additional focus to promote comprehensive traffic conviction data and adequacy of <strong>bus inspections will further advance the safety goals of the program. FMCSA should consider this information as it moves forward, as directed by the President, in working with the United States Trade Representative, the Department of State, leaders in Congress and Mexican officials to propose legislation creating a new cross-border trucking project that will meet the concerns of Congress and NAFTA commitments.
MORE FROM THE OIG REPORT
FMCSA reported that 243 of 274, or nearly 90 percent, FMCSA enforcement personnel positions authorized at the United States-Mexico border were filled as of October 2008, and hiring efforts are ongoing.
In addition to the FMCSA enforcement personnel currently working at the southern border, 345 federally subsidized state inspectors are at United States-Mexico border crossings. (This does not count the License and Weight Inspectors in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, and the CHP Commercial Enforcement officers in California who are not federally subsidized, but whose duty is to routinely inspect commercial vehicles)
Consistent with the non-transfer criteria of section 350(c)(1)(C), our analysis found that none of the enforcement personnel hired for the United States-Mexico border crossings were experienced FMCSA personnel transferred from other parts of the United States to fill these positions.
FMCSA meets the hours-of-service policy criteria of section 350(c)(1)(D). FMCSA has issued policy guidance requiring safety auditors to verify hours-of-service compliance for Mexican motor carriers seeking authority to operate outside municipal and commercial zones. At the border crossings reviewed, we found that FMCSA conducted inspections as required in accordance with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspection criteria, which include reviewing drivers’ hours-of-service records.
So once again, the reports, as others have done, shows that Mexico and FMCSA continue to comply with all road blocks thrown at them with success, and the reports conclusively prove that Mexican motor carriers can operate safely and in full compliance with our laws, regulations and safety standards.
35 years in the trucking business and living in Mexico for the past 15 years, make me uniquely qualified to offer my insight and opinion into the Mexican trucking industry and other border issues. A contributor to SiriuxXM Road Dog Channel 106 and to the award winning Lockridge Report, Mexico Trucker Online continues to publish the unvarnished truth about the subjects we cover.