Audit program to include new U.S. carriers

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A carrier auditing program designed to ease congressional concerns about Mexican trucking companies will soon be extended to new U.S. carriers as well.

Joseph Clapp, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said his agency will soon publish a proposed rule that would require all new U.S. carriers to undergo the same safety audit that Mexican carriers face. Clapp made the announcement at a truck safety forum in Knoxville, Tenn., April 3.

Those safety audits, which require carriers to meet with FMCSA within their first 18 months, are designed to be educational and provide assistance to new carriers, Clapp said. “You have to pass the audit,” he said. “If you don’t have the necessary methods in place to pass it, you won’t get authority.

“New carriers are like new drivers – they are more likely to be involved in an accident,” Clapp said. “This gives us a chance to have a face-to-face meeting with 40,000 to 50,000 new carriers each year.”

The rule would cover the largest new fleets down to owner-operators seeking their own authority in order to comply with the law, Clapp said. The proposal seeks to ensure that all new carriers have a safety program in place to comply with federal regulations. Not all those meetings would have to take place at the carrier’s place of business, and some meetings could take place before a carrier begins operating.

Clapp also said other preparations for opening the U.S. border to Mexican carriers are moving forward. The agency last week graduated its first class of inspectors trained to deal with cross-border traffic, and FMCSA is acquiring facilities and developing programs. The agency, which recently published rules allowing Mexican carriers to apply for authority, should be able to process those applications in the coming weeks. If the U.S. inspector general approves the process, Clapp expects the border to be opened by early summer as planned.

Clapp spoke at the International Truck and Bus Safety Research and Policy Symposium.