North American Free Trade Agreement:

Coordinated Operational Plan Needed to Ensure Mexican Trucks' Compliance With U.S. Standards

GAO-02-238: Published: Dec 21, 2001. Publicly Released: Jan 8, 2002.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allowed Mexican commercial trucks to travel throughout the United States. Because of concerns about the safety of these vehicles, the United States has limited Mexican truck operations to commercial zones near the border. Relatively few Mexican carriers are expected to operate beyond these commercial zones once the United States fully opens its highways to Mexican carriers. Specific regulatory and economic factors that may limit the number of Mexican carriers operating beyond the commercial zones include (1) the lack of established business relationships beyond the U.S. commercial zones that permit drivers to return to Mexico carrying cargo, (2) difficulties obtaining competitively priced insurance, (3) congestion and delays in crossing the U.S.-Mexico border that make long-haul operations less profitable, and (4) high registration fees. Over time, improvements in trucking and border operations may increase the number of Mexican commercial vehicles traveling beyond the commercial zones. GAO found that the Department of Transportation (DOT) lacks a fully developed or approved plan to ensure that Mexican-domiciled carriers comply with U.S. safety standards. DOT has not secured permanent space at any of the 25 southwest border ports of entry where commercial trucks enter the United States, and only California has established permanent inspection facilities. DOT also has not completed agreements with border states on how 58 federal inspectors and 89 state inspectors will share inspection responsibilities along the border. States are responsible for ensuring that Mexican trucks adhere to U.S. emissions standards. California is the only southwest border state with a truck emissions inspection program in place at the border. Although the Mexican government has developed truck safety regulations and taken steps to enforce safety and air emissions standards, these efforts are relatively recent and it is too early to assess their effectiveness. With DOT's support, Mexico has developed five databases on the safety records of its commercial drivers and motor carriers. As of October 2001, however, the commercial driver's license database covered less than one-quarter of Mexico's commercial drivers. Mexico has also participated in NAFTA-related efforts to make motor carrier safety regulations compatible across the three member nations. Mexican private industry has also sought to improve the safety of Mexican commercial vehicles.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's report recommendation (North American Free Trade Agreement: Coordinated Operational Plan Needed to Ensure Mexican Trucks' Compliance With U.S. Standards, GAO-02-238 dated December 21, 2001) and Congressional action, the Department of Transportation has taken steps to develop and implement an operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. These include creating inspection goals, addressing data quality issues, reaching agreements with states and other Federal entities to ensure that adequate inspection facilities are available at the U.S.-Mexico border, and developing a timetable and assigning responsibility for actions necessary to open the border with Mexico.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Mexican trucks meet U.S. standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop and implement a coordinated operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. In addition to meeting statutory requirements, this effort should include establishing inspection goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's report recommendation (North American Free Trade Agreement: Coordinated Operational Plan Needed to Ensure Mexican Trucks' Compliance With U.S. Standards, GAO-02-238 dated December 21, 2001) and Congressional action, the Department of Transportation has taken steps to develop and implement an operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. These include creating inspection goals, addressing data quality issues, reaching agreements with states and other Federal entities to ensure that adequate inspection facilities are available at the U.S.-Mexico border, and developing a timetable and assigning responsibility for actions necessary to open the border with Mexico.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Mexican trucks meet U.S. standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop and implement a coordinated operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. In addition to meeting statutory requirements, this effort should include taking steps to improve the quality of data to evaluate whether safety goals are being met for both drayage (cross-border shuttle) and long-haul carriers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's report recommendation (North American Free Trade Agreement: Coordinated Operational Plan Needed to Ensure Mexican Trucks' Compliance With U.S. Standards, GAO-02-238 dated December 21, 2001) and Congressional action, the Department of Transportation has taken steps to develop and implement an operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. These include creating inspection goals, addressing data quality issues, reaching agreements with states and other Federal entities to ensure that adequate inspection facilities are available at the U.S.-Mexico border, and developing a timetable and assigning responsibility for actions necessary to open the border with Mexico.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Mexican trucks meet U.S. standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop and implement a coordinated operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. In addition to meeting statutory requirements, this effort should include reaching agreements with states and other federal agencies on where inspection facilities will be built, how they will be staffed, and who will operate them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's report recommendation (North American Free Trade Agreement: Coordinated Operational Plan Needed to Ensure Mexican Trucks' Compliance With U.S. Standards, GAO-02-238 dated December 21, 2001) and Congressional action, the Department of Transportation has taken steps to develop and implement an operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. These include creating inspection goals, addressing data quality issues, reaching agreements with states and other Federal entities to ensure that adequate inspection facilities are available at the U.S.-Mexico border, and developing a timetable and assigning responsibility for actions necessary to open the border with Mexico.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Mexican trucks meet U.S. standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop and implement a coordinated operational truck safety plan at the southwest border. In addition to meeting statutory requirements, this effort should include developing a specific timetable for when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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