What’s the problem with the Cross Border Pilot Program with Mexico?

Anna Amos, director of safety programs for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, left, and Marcelo Perez, a transportation safety investigator for the agency, addressed Mexican truckers in Tijuana on Friday. — Alfredo Ortíz
Anna Amos, director of safety programs for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, left, and Marcelo Perez, a transportation safety investigator for the agency, addressed Mexican truckers in Tijuana on Friday. —Photo - Alfredo Ortíz -SUT
The story in Friday’s edition of the San Diego Union Tribune brought to light the low level of participation in the Cross Border Pilot Program for Mexican carriers with the revelation that two officials from FMCSA were in Tijuana meeting with Mexican transportation stakeholders hoping to interest more Mexican carriers in participating in the program.

Part of the reason for the low level of participation in the program, according to Alfonso Esquér, Canacar’s representative in Tijuana is that the new program has far too many limitations.

According to CANACAR National President Juan Carlos Muñoz Márquez, “It is very complicated, it’s very expensive, and to tell you the truth, it hasn’t brought us any benefit.”

Transportes Olympics, the first carrier to participate and cross the border in the 2007 and 2011 program reportedly spent more than $10,000 to prepare for the first program.

Opponents of the program, Teamsters, OOIDA and so called bogus safety groups have preyed upon the fears, prejudice and ignorance of otherwise good solid American drivers, by convincing them that once the Mexicans are allowed in the United States, they’ll be in the unemployment line. A couple of hundred Mexican trucks are going to put 4 million US CDL holders out of business? Anyone believe that.

These opponents take it one step further, inciting hysteria among an ignorant populace that knows nothing about trucking, claiming that these “dangerous, unsafe Mexican trucks” driven by “untrained, unqualified, drug using Mexicans” will put the soccer moms families at risk. This is Teamsters President James P. Hoffa’s favorite rant, although it couldn’t be further from the truth.

And Mexican truckers do not operate as we do in the US. Most US carriers are out to haul freight on irregular routes. Mexican carriers operate under contract. Generally, they go out with a load and return to their domiciles with another load. Without established contracts with their customers in Mexico for a back haul into Mexico, or contracts in this country for the back haul, there is little benefit.

Opponents of Mexican Trucks use innacurate government data to press their case

CSA (Comprehensive Safety Accountability) the FMCSA’s new compliance measurement system for companies operating in the U.S, that replaced the old SAFERSYS database is responsible for inaccurate portraits of carrier performance and is being used by opponents of Mexican trucks, to paint a portrait of the carriers that is far from accurate.

Senior Editor Jami Jones of Landline Magazine, once a very competent journalist before becoming involved in the Mexican truck debate, posted a story yesterday based on the San Diego Union-Tribune report. And as usual, she puts a spin on it that reflects OOIDA’s policy of misinform, circumvent the truth and when necessary, lie about the Mexican trucking industry.

Jones writes:

For example, applying companies Servicio De Transporte International, Trinity Industries, Maria Isabel Mendivil, Luis Edmundo Grijalva Gamez, Transportes Unimex and Autotransportes Libre Comercio are all in alert status in the Driver Fitness BASIC. That BASIC tracks compliance issues in licensing, ability to read and speak English sufficiently, current medical certification, etc. All six of the motor carriers have a BASIC score of 99 percent or higher.

This is a prime example of what she fails to point out.Servicio de Transporte International based out Cd. Juarez, Chih, across the border from El Paso Texas, does indeed have a DRIVER FITNESS BASIC of 100%. On the surface, this appears bad. But what have the drivers been found in violation of?

The majority (1243) not being able to speak English to the satisfaction of the inspecting officer! This company is a commercial zone carrier and most would admit that 391.11(b)(2) is arbitrary and capricious inasmuch at it gives no guidance as to what is “competency” in the English language.

This same carrier shows in the FATIGUED DRIVER BASIC, 35 violations, out of 8,465 inspections of drivers not having log books. Log books are generally not required when operating within a 100 air mile radius of your home terminal which you return to each night, as these guys do.

And in the VEHICLE MAINTENANCE BASIC, the majority of violations are a Texas DPS specialty. 393.45(b)(2) Failing to secure brake hose/tubing against mechanical damage. 2434 violations. A trooper thumb against the airline leaves “evidence” of “chafing”. This is closely followed by 1043 incidents of a light out. It might only be a marker light, but that’s enough in this new age of CSA.

It’s happening to the Mexicans, the Canadians and our drivers.

Jones continues with her spin by informing that;

Two other motor carriers – one of which is Grupo (Behr) – have safety rankings in CSA. Grupo still maintains a 50.5 percent in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. GCC Transporte has scores of 47 percent and 57 percent in the Driver Fitness and Vehicle Maintenance BASIC respectively.

What Jones is insinuating is that these carriers are baaaddd having what would appear to be “high” percentiles in the various basics. However, the intervention thresholds for the various BASICS, meaning when FMCSA would take a look and send a warning letter, is

  • UNSAFE DRIVING     60%
  • DRIVER FITNESS       75%
  • DRUGS/ALCOHOL      75%
  • VEH. MAINT.               75%
  • CARGO RELATED       75%
  • CRASH                         75%
So the insinuation is that these carriers have a poor safety history is totally bogus when in reality, they are quite safe.
And the company we chose to illustrate our point, .Servicio de Transporte International of Cd. Juarez. In the 24 month reporting period, only one accident. 8480 total inspections with an OOS rate of 8% for vehicles and 1% for drivers. For below the national average in the US of 20.72% and 5.51% respectively.
So far now, another reason for Mexican carriers to be skeptical about participating in a program that is not required under NAFTA.
And we can continue to expect the opponents such as OOIDA with their lies and misinformation to mislead the American trucker and the public at large and of course Teamsters President James P. Hoffa who recently claimed in a totally bogus story in HuffPost that;
Mexico’s failure is especially egregious in the case of cross-border trucking. U.S. trucks and truckers have to meet much more rigorous safety standards than their Mexican counterparts. Carnage and crime prevent them from using Mexican highways. But Mexican trucks that don’t meet U.S. safety standards are allowed to drive on violence-free U.S. highways as part of the U.S. Transportation Department’s latest pilot program……..
Further proof that FMCSA is indifferent to highway safety came with the second company allowed into the pilot program. Transportes Olympic has one truck with a 33 percent out-of-service rate.
Apparently Hoffa is continuing to show his ignorance. Transportes Olympic has a 14% Out of Service rate based on FMCSA’s CSA database for a “light out”. This from 11 inspections on 1 truck since the program started.
As Marcelo Perez, the  transportation safety investigator for FMCSA said during last Fridays meeting,
When the previous pilot project was suspended in 2009, “no one was able to say that Mexican carriers are any less safe than U.S. carriers. The only thing they could say was that the project did not have sufficient data to come up with a statistically valid decision. That’s where we find ourselves today, needing you to participate in this program so that we don’t come up with another draw.”
Personally, we don’t see the need for any type of cross border program as Mexican carriers have historically been and continue to be as safe, if not safer than their US and Canadian counterparts.