DOT OIG to audit U.S.-Mexico cross-border program

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The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General is initiating an audit of the one-year demonstration project that permits up to 100 motor carriers domiciled in Mexico to operate beyond the commercial zones along the U.S.-Mexico border. The audit is in response to provisions in the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007, which Congress enacted in May.

DOT OIG says the specific objectives for the audit will be to determine whether: (1) the Department of Transportation has established sufficient mechanisms to determine whether the demonstration project is adversely affecting motor carrier safety, (2) federal and state monitoring and enforcement activities are sufficient to ensure that participants in the demonstration project are complying with all applicable laws and regulations, and (3) the demonstration project consists of a representative and adequate sample of Mexico-domiciled carriers that are likely to engage in cross-border operations beyond the U.S. municipalities and commercial zones on the U.S.-Mexico border.

DOT first announced the demonstration project on Feb. 23. Section 6901 of the act enacted by Congress in May required DOT OIG to review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s preparations for monitoring and enforcing safety rules during the demonstration project. The act also required Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to take action addressing any issues raised in the review and submit a report to Congress detailing such actions prior to initiating the demonstration project.

DOT OIG issued its report on Sept. 6 detailing issues pertaining to the proposed demonstration project. That same day, DOT provided a report to Congress addressing issues raised in the audit and granted provisional operating authority to the first Mexican carrier. This action formally initiated the demonstration project.

The act enacted by Congress in May also requires that the OIG complete an interim report six months after the start of the demonstration project, looking at participant selection, any adverse effects of the demonstration project on motor carrier safety, and monitoring and enforcement activities; and a final report within 60 days of the conclusion of the demonstration project addressing the same topics as the interim report.

FMCSA announced last week that 10 Mexican carriers now have been granted authority to operate a total of 55 trucks in the United States under the program, and four U.S. carriers have been allowed to operate a total of 41 trucks in Mexico. FMCSA said it has notified an additional 37 Mexican carriers that they have successfully passed a pre-authorization safety audit.