US DOT Announces Mexican Motor Carriers Can Apply for US Authority

Washington D.C. – On January 9, 2015 the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) announced it would end a decades old ban on Mexico based motor carriers getting operating authority to run throughout the U.S.

In a press released statement, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Opening the door to a safe cross-border trucking system with Mexico is a major step forward in strengthening our relationship with the nation’s third largest trading partner and in meeting our obligations under NAFTA.”

This announcement comes mere months after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ended its congressionally mandated and highly controversial pilot project to test the ability of Mexico domiciled carriers to operate in the U.S. in the same manner as enjoyed by Canadian motor carriers.

In directly refuting arguments put forth by opponents to cross-border trucking, Secretary Foxx stated, “Data from the three-year pilot program, and additional analysis on almost 1,000 other Mexican long-haul trucking companies that transport goods into the United States, proved that Mexican carriers demonstrate a level of safety at least as high as their American and Canadian counterparts.”

Opening our southern border to cross-border trucking was a promise the U.S. made in the North American Free Trade Agreement signed two decades ago. Opposition from the Teamsters Union, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and their allies within the safety advocacy community ultimately lead to Mexico imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods costing more than $2 billion annually.

While opponents of cross-border trucking have not indicated what – if any further legal actions they might attempt to thwart US treaty obligations, California agricultural producers will be a winner from the conclusion of this trade spat. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman welcomed the news saying, “I am pleased that the Department of Transportation has published its analysis of its very rigorous long-haul, cross-border trucking pilot program.

The successful conclusion of the pilot program provides the basis for the permanent resolution to this dispute. We have been, and will continue to work with Mexico to ensure that the threat of retaliatory duties will now be brought to a swift conclusion as well. Formally concluding this process will help us continue our work to expand trade and investment opportunities between our countries.”

Grant of Operating Authority Still Difficult

Unlike U.S. or Canadian based applicants for U.S. operating authority, Mexico based motor carriers will still be required to complete and pass a “Pre-Authorization Safety Audit” (PASA) prior to the issuance of operating authority. A PASA is intended to confirm the carrier has adequate safety management programs in place, including systems for monitoring hours-of-service and to conduct drug testing using an HHS-certified lab.
Additionally, all drivers must possess a valid U.S. Commercial Driver’s License or a Mexican Licencia Federal de Conductor, and must meet the agency’s English language proficiency requirements. Once the motor carrier is approved, their vehicles will be required to undergo a 37-point North American Standard Level 1 inspection every 90 days for at least four years.

CCTA’s Executive Director Lee Brown said, “Removing this final hurdle for Mexico based motor carriers was not unexpected. It is one of the reasons the association has moved quickly to position itself as capable of offering products and services to what is certain to be a large influx of new motor carriers into the marketplace.”

This post is also available in: Spanish