Cross-border pilot program data insufficient, OIG says, though FMCSA work was ‘adequate’

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Updated Jan 3, 2015

mexicoUntitled-1The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General released a report Dec. 29 with two key conclusions about the 2011-2014 cross-border pilot program with Mexico: FMCSA’s work on the program complied with Congressional requirements, but the program had so few Mexican carrier participants that the data produced is insufficient.

As CCJ reported in October, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had said prior to the 2011 start of the cross-border program that it would need 46 carriers to participate to produce the data it needed to make conclusions about the safety and compliance of Mexican carriers.

By the program’s October conclusion, however, just 13 carriers were participating and only 15 carriers total had been admitted to the program.

The OIG says in its report it confirms FMCSA’s conclusions about the program’s data  — that Mexican carriers and drivers are no less safe than U.S. carriers and drivers — but the lack of participation makes the data invalid.

“We could not determine with confidence whether the 15 carriers are representative,” the OIG report says. “Without being able to determine the representativeness of the 15 carriers, one cannot project the safety performance for the population of Mexico-domiciled carriers that may qualify for long-haul operating authority in the future.”

The OIG report also revealed data included in CCJ’s October report, showing that 90 percent of the border crossings made by Mexican carriers participating in the program were done by two carriers. Moreover, 80 percent of inspections conducted in the program were of those two carriers, too.

Also, only 17 percent of the miles accrued in the program by Mexican carriers took place outside of the the four states bordering Mexico, the OIG notes, and FMCSA did not differentiate between mileage within the commercial border zone and outside of it.

The OIG began its audit of the program in August, following up on a 2012-initiated study of the program while it was in progress. The OIG made a similar conclusion in its earlier report, saying the program lacked sufficient data to draw safety conclusions. Only four carriers were participating at that point.

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Thirty-seven Mexican carriers applied for authority during the three-year pilot program, OIG says, despite FMCSA’s efforts to attract participants.

FMCSA had said it would use the OIG’s report to determine its course of action regarding cross-border trucking.

The agency offered full operational authority to 10 of the 13 carriers at the program’s October conclusion, and provisional operating authority to the other three.

FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee at its October meeting issued a report knocking the program’s lack of data, too.