USDOT-OIG report NOT a condemnation of Mexican Cross Border Program nor Mexican Trucks in general

Freightliner plant in Saltillo Coahuila employs more than 2700 peopleOn September 24, 2008, the USDOT Office of Inspector General issued an audit report entitled REPORT ON THE SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY OF FMCSA’S REVIEW OF CANADIAN/MEXICAN COMPLIANCE WITH FEDERAL COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS.

Of course OOIDA jumped on this report with an article erroneously entitled Data flawed on Mexican truck safety reg compliance A glance would make you believe that Mexican trucks are not in compliance with FMCSA safety regs and this is not the case!

Steve Sommers on America’s Trucking Network told his few listeners that this report PROVES that Mexican trucks are not in compliance and, by the way Steve, thanks for the mention of the website here. That wasn’t too hard was it! But he wanted his listeners to feel vindicated by their beliefs that Mexican trucks don’t meet US standards. Again, Steve didn’t bother to read the report. Or, maybe he did and this was his way of continuing to spread his misinformation about Mexican trucks

The OIG report dealt with compliance of Mexican trucks with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

FMVSS are regulations written in terms of minimum safety performance requirements for motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment. These requirements are specified in such a manner “that the public is protected against unreasonable risk of crashes occurring as a result of the design, construction, or performance of motor vehicles and is also protected against unreasonable risk of death or injury in the event crashes do occur.

In other words, they put forth standards for vehicle systems such as brakes, structural, occupant restraint systems, stopping distance. You get the idea.

On April 20, 2007, FMCSA provided its report to Congress entitled, “The Review of Canadian/Mexican Commercial Vehicle Compliance with FMVSS.” FMCSA’s report was based on the April 30, 2006, review performed under a grant issued to the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), Texas A&M University System.

In that report, TTI estimated that over 90 percent of Mexican-owned commercial trucks, trailers, and passenger buses entering into the United States at U.S.-Mexico commercial border crossings complied with FMVSS. This estimate was based on the examination of 3,294 vehicles at selected border crossings between February 13, 2006, and March 24, 2006; where all but 160 trucks, 233 trailers, and 8 buses were determined to comply with FMVSS. According to TTI, its sample and the probability formulas used to make estimates based on sample results provide valid statistical estimates at the 95-percent confidence level.

This is where the objections by the USDOT-OIG come in.

The OIG asserts the TTI samples were not statistically valid because of how the sample was selected and projected.

The examples given were:

  • Neither the border crossings nor the vehicles sampled were chosen at random; and therefore, the results are biased. In the opinion of the OIG, random sampling was needed to ensure crossings and vehicles had a known chance of being selected, a prerequisite needed to use probability based formulas to make statistical projections.

TTI agreed that the sample was potentially compromised, but opined that it did not impact the sample results.

  • Even if the sample results were not compromised, TTI used the wrong probability formulas to make statistical estimates. In our opinion, based on the multi-stage sample design used, a more complex statistical formula is required—one that appropriately weighs sample results and sampling errors at each sample stage.

TTI did not agree and opined that the formulas it used were appropriate for the sample designed. Apples to apples. Short math to long math.

FMCSA agreed in principle. According to FMCSA, the concerns raised about sampling methods may be valid and the estimates derived by TTI may be biased by both sampling and non-sampling errors, but FMCSA does not expect that the reported TTI findings are significantly affected by them.

How does this apply to the Mexican Cross Border Program?

In March 2002, FMCSA proposed rules that would require each commercial motor vehicle operating in interstate commerce in the United States to display a certification label asserting the vehicle complied with all applicable FMVSS when determining that it could ensure Mexican motor carriers’ compliance with these standards while operating in the United States by enforcing established Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and policies since many of the FMCSRs are cross-referenced to FMVSS. Enforcement would occur during the carriers’ pre-authority safety audit and during U.S.-Mexico border crossings and U.S. roadside vehicle inspections. Additionally, FMCSA issued an internal policy instructing its staff to deny, suspend, or revoke a carrier’s operating authority or certificate of registration for making a false certification or issue appropriate penalties for the falsification.

This has been the rule and the procedure. During the PASA, every element of a carriers operation is put beneath the microscope, including something as simple as a silly little sticker on the door post.

The title of the report does not reflect reality

For Canadian-domiciled carriers, FMCSA stated that the compatibility of CMVSS to FMVSS was confirmed by NHTSA.

Although required by SAFETEA-LU to examine Canadian commercial motor vehicles, the review did not examine Canadian-domiciled commercial vehicles at border crossings. The review asserted that Canada has a long history of FMVSS compliance and comparable U.S. safety standards.

The agreement with TTI

As part of the grant agreement, TTI was to estimate (1) how many vehicles have an FMVSS or CMVSS certification label affixed and of those without an affixed label, how many comply based on date and location of manufacture and (2) the number of vehicles that will operate beyond commercial zones9 and will comply with FMVSS if restrictions are lifted. Furthermore, TTI would provide the results of a study regarding U.S., Canada, and Mexico commercial motor vehicle standards and their enforcement.

Considering that the study was done in 2006 and the Mexican Cross Border Program did not begin until late 2007, the trucks selected in this study would not have been trucks destined for use in the program. Instead, they would be OP2-MX authorized cross border drayage trucks. These trucks are largely old cabovers from US fleets which have been purchased and put in service for the express purpose of shuttling trailers cross border within the commercial zone.

We all know by now that Todd Spencer of OOIDA, Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters, and yes, our little buddy Steve Sommers, has gone overboard in trying to convince the public these are the de facto trucks used in the program.

USDOT OIG Recommendations

Based on this report, the USDOT OIG recommends:

  1. Ensure that any future reviews of Canadian and Mexican compliance with FMVSS use valid statistical methods by having staff with statistics expertise review the work throughout the process and before reports are issued.
  2. Ensure that any future reviews of Canadian and Mexican compliance with FMVSS clearly present in the report the quantitative impact of key assumptions made.

FMCSA responded and assured future compliance with these two recommendations.

Fair enough. Again, apples to oranges! This report has absolutely NOTHING to do with the fitness or ability of participants in the Mexican Cross Border Program to operate safely in the United States. To the contrary. Over the past 13 months of the program, there have been no accidents, incidents nor major safety concerns by those particpating, as we predicted long ago on this site.

This is a big non issue. Nothing more than the opponents of Mexican trucks to have something to twist and warp to fit into their agenda.

The trucks surveyed were drayage trucks. US built fleet trucks used to shuttle trailers. These trucks had a prior life in major fleets in the US. For certain they would comply with FMVSS regulations.

Frieghtliner, Kenworth and International all have Class 8 manufacturing facilities in Mexico and build trucks for the US market.

A truck is a truck. It is ludicorus to assume that a Columbia Freightliner coming off the line and destined for a fleet or dealer in the US would be built any different than the next truck which might be destined for a fleet or dealer in Mexico. Brakes, suspensions, body and frame, no different.

So this report has absolutely NOTHING to do with non compliance of FMCSA safety regulations as they apply to the safe and legal operation of Mexican commercial carriers in the US.

Sorry folks, nice try!