May 23, 2012 6:00 PM, EDT
Low Participation by Mexican Truckers Threatens Cross-Border Program
Tom Biery/Trans Pixs
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Low participation by Mexican carriers in the cross-border trucking program could lead to the resumption of Mexican tariffs on U.S. goods, an official with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said.

Without more carriers participating, FMCSA cannot collect the safety data it needs to judge Mexican carriers’ safety, said Bill Quade, the agency’s associate administrator.

The result would be the failure of the program, which would mean U.S. officials could not permanently allow Mexican carriers into the country. That opens the door for Mexico to impose new tariffs on goods imported from the United States.

“The agency is extremely concerned about not having sufficient data,” Quade told a subcommittee of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, FMCSA’s main advisory board.

Quade said without sufficient data, “we cannot normalize relations with Mexico and start accepting applications for authority.”

He added the result is likely “Mexico putting tariffs back on United States goods.”

The Department of Transportation is confident that the program will be successful, said Justin Nisly, DOT’s press secretary.

“The cross-border trucking agreement we signed with Mexico last year ended crippling tariffs on American farmers, and we are fully confident that over the next two and a half years, we will gather the data needed to make the program permanent,” he said Thursday.

Additionally, DOT and FMCSA are working with Mexican officials and the trucking industry there to encourage more carriers to apply, Nisly said.

When FMCSA developed pilot program last year, it said it would need about 43 Mexican carriers to make 4,100 crossings during the three-year program.

As of May 8, there were three carriers in the program, who had crossed 33 times, Quade said.

Each carrier has had one truck and one driver approved for the program, which was developed to comply with the North American Free Trade Agreement.