Federal officials, bowing to safety concerns over Mexican trucks on U.S. highways, announced last week trucks participating in the ongoing cross-border demonstration project will be required to submit to monitoring by a satellite-based vehicle tracking system – a move one critic dismissed as an “ornament” that “fails to address the real issues of driver safety.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a statement Thursday saying the tracking plan jointly developed by FMCSA and Mexico’s Secretaria de Communicaciones y Transportes applies to both U.S. and Mexican trucks in the program.
“This will give us the ability to monitor every vehicle from Mexico and ensure all companies are following our strict safety requirements, including those governing hours of service and sabotage,” said John Hill, FMCSA administrator.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, isn’t buying FMCSA’s claims of enhanced safety.
“This really accomplishes nothing. It’s like putting earrings on a pig,” he told WND.
“The FMCSA just proceeds with the program, placing more and more ornaments on it, but fails to address the real issues of driver safety.”
Spencer pointed to the last line of the FMCSA statement to make his point.
“Vehicles will be tracked by vehicle number and company – no driver information will be collected or tracked,” it reads.
“The issues are driver issues. There are no real hours of service regulations in Mexico, there is no effective way of checking driving or criminal records, and the Mexican CDL (commercial driver’s license) does not measure up to the U.S. license,” said Spencer.
“Tracking trucks and trailers tells us nothing about the drivers. The net effect of this announcement on safety is zero.”
The FMCSA initiative comes despite efforts in Congress to completely halt the Mexican truck demonstration program through identical amendments in House and Senate versions of the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. That bill (HR3074/S1789) is currently awaiting conference committee action but may not go into effect until November or later.
“We think the amendments will remain in the final bill,” Barry Piatt, spokesman for Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., sponsor of the Senate amendment, told WND. But, he added, the demonstration program could continue until the bill becomes law.
“The fact that they continue this program despite the wishes of Congress is in line with the arrogant approach they have taken all along. Under the defunding of a pilot program those carriers that are or will be approved will need to stop at that point,” said Piatt.
“The FMCSA has maintained all along that they do not have to manage a pilot program. The administration is simply thumbing its nose at the wishes of Congress and those concerned about true safety on American roads,” Spencer told WND.
To date, four Mexican carriers have been authorized to operate in the U.S., and 2 U.S. carriers have been authorized to operate in Mexico.
Michael Howe is a free-lance writer who has covered the trucking industry for several magazines. He resides in the Denver area where he serves on the faculty of Morgan Community College.