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Mexico-U.S. pilot program allows certain Mexican truck companies to operate in America

Written by Steve Gursten Posted June 17th, 2013

Crossing borders: Pilot program under NAFTA agreement allows preapproved Mexican motor carriers to operate in America after passing safety inspections

NAFTA trucking pilot program u.s. Mexico

In 1994, the United States, Canada and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The agreement included cross-border long-haul trucking provisions.  In order to honor the agreement, the U.S. – specifically the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – has initiated a pilot program with Mexico.

This pilot program allows Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate throughout the U.S. for up to three years. In return, American motor carriers are likewise able to operate in Mexico for the same period.

Currently, there are 10 Mexican trucking companies that are authorized to operate in America.

But what about regulating the Mexican trucking companies for safety, given the motor carriers are from a different country with different rules?  This has certainly been a hot topic, and all three founding attorneys of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable have spoken at legal seminars on this issue.

The 3-part safety audit for Mexican trucking companies in the U.S.

Pre-authorization safety audit: Before any Mexican carrier can operate in the U.S., it must pass a preauthorization safety audit by the FMCSA.  The FMCSA must pass both the carrier’s trucks and its drivers. Trucks and truck drivers must be in compliance with the FMCSRs.  The drivers are also assessed for proficiency in English, license review,and security vetting.

Only those trucks and drivers which are preapproved by the agency may operate in the United States.

But this is really only the “step before the first step,” so to speak. After being preapproved, Mexican trucking companies must proceed through three further stages.

1. Inspection upon entrance to America: After initial preapproval, every single time one of the Mexican trucks enters America, it must be inspected. The trucking company must remain in stage one until it has successfully passed a minimum of three entrance inspections. However, it may remain in stage one beyond three inspections at the FMCSA’s discretion.

After at least three entrance inspections, a carrier is eligible to move into stage two.

2. Random inspections: At stage two, inspections are random. In addition to the random inspections, the FMCSA also will assess the carrier’s compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  Once the carrier receives the “satisfactory” safety rating from the FMCSA, the carrier may proceed to the next stage.

3. Permanent operating authority to the Mexican motor carrier is granted.  However, its fleet is still subject to random inspections and compliance review.  Further, the carrier’s operation is still limited to those preapproved trucks and drivers.

What if a Mexican trucking company is driving in the U.S. but not cleared by the FMSCA?

Any carrier who is discovered to be operating trucks or drivers who are not cleared by the FMCSA, or who are otherwise operating in violation of the pilot program requirements, are automatically deemed to be “operating beyond the scope of their operating authority.”

These carriers must be cited accordingly pursuant to 49 CFR § 392.9a(a)(2).  Additionally, a driver discovered to be driving with an invalid license can be cited individually pursuant to this regulation as well.

The consequence of being cited for operating outside of the scope of operating authority is typically being ordered out of service by the FMCSA.

Additional restrictions for Mexican truck companies in America

Mexican trucking  companies which are enrolled in the pilot program and are fully compliant with the rules are still subject to  numerous stringent restrictions.

For example, the carrier may not:

  • Transport hazardous materials
  • Transport passengers
  • Operate any commercial vehicles or place drivers in the United States, which are not approved by the FMCSA.

Additionally, all of the participating trucks must be fitted with an operational monitoring device to ensure compliance.

This is a brave new pilot and really illustrates globalization in the world economy today.  But the actions by the FMCSA also seem to demonstrate its commitment to safety.  The agency must ensure that these new carriers joining us on the highway, and existing domestic carriers, are held to the highest safety standards.

The Mexican motor carriers and their truck drivers need to be held accountable for any violations they commit.  The American public expects the highest safety standards and the safest driving environment possible.

For more information about this program, please see the U.S.-Mexico Long-Haul Pilot Program Vehicle Inspection Policy.

Related information:

Truck accident law in the U.S.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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