Cross-border freight haulers now have new access points to carry loads to and from Mexico, according to a pre-published rule issued Feb. 23 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The agency intends to officially codify New Mexico’s Dona Ana County and Luna County as commercial border zones and expand the commercial border zone around El Paso, Texas, thanks to opening of a new cross-border bridge in the city.
The changes are set to take place Wednesday, Feb. 24 — the scheduled publication date of the agency’s rule. The agency is also looking for comment from industry stakeholders on establishing new borders for the El Paso commercial border zone. Comments will be due 30 days from Wednesday.
Commercial border zones along the U.S.-Mexican border allow Mexican-domiciled carriers and drivers and U.S.-based carriers and drivers limited access to cross the international border to deliver freight. Cross-border loads are generally dropped at a warehouse or some other facility within the commercial border zone.
The changes to the Dona Ana and Luna border zones intend to “correct an oversight,” according to FMCSA’s rule, which will officially codify the two counties as commercial border zones. They’ve been used as such since 1998. There are two cross-border crossings in the counties, one in Santa Teresa and the other in Columbus.
The expansion of the El Paso commercial border zone, meanwhile, comes in response to the looming opening of the Tornillo-Guadalupe New International Bridge, which is expected to open to truck traffic next month.
From FMCSA’s rule: “The expanded commercial zone must also include the intersection of Interstate 10 with O.T. Smith Road and Texas Farm-to-Market Road 3380 so that trucks and buses that have FMCSA authority to operate only within the current El Paso commercial zone may use the new international bridge and will be able to drive to and from the intersection of Interstate 10 and O.T. Smith Road/Farm-to-Market Road 3380.”
The agency’s rule meets those expansion needs, it says, by adding all unincorporated areas within 15 miles of the incorporated boundaries of San Elizario, Texas, to the current El Paso border zone. That change will take effect Wednesday, along with the New Mexico changes.
However, the agency says, it’s open to expanding the zone all the way to the eastern boundary of El Paso County — a decision it will make based on stakeholder feedback received during the public comment period. Such an expansion would add another 22 square miles to the border zone not included in the San Elizario expansion. It would also make it easier for enforcers to determine whether a truck is within the commercial border zone or not, FMCSA says.
To offer the agency feedback on the El Paso expansion, visit regulations.gov starting Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. EST and search for docket number FMCSA-2015-0372.