Fifteen More Mexican Haulers Seek Authority to Deliver in U.S. Under Pilot Program

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Nov. 14 print edition of Transport Topics.

Fifteen Mexican trucking companies have applied for operating authority to make deliveries in the United States under the cross-border pilot program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said last week.

The agency also said that as of Nov. 8, it had conducted pre-authorization safety audits on only two of those carriers.

“FMCSA is in the process of initiating additional pre-authority safety audits on Mexican carrier-applicants,” the agency said in a statement.

Last month, FMCSA said in a report to Congress that 11 Mexican carriers had applied.

The agency did not identify the new carriers that have applied and said that if a carrier passes the safety audit, the results will be posted in the Federal Register for public comment. It did not provide any time frame for when decisions will be made on those carriers.

Of the two carriers that have completed the safety audits, Transportes Olympic was granted operating authority while Grupo Behr de Baja California had its authority delayed due to public comments questioning its safety practices.

FMCSA said in an Oct. 14 announcement it “is conducting additional reviews of Grupo Behr’s inspections and vehicles” (10-17, p. 84). The agency was still investigating the carrier’s operations as of Nov. 8.

Transportes Olympic made its first trip into the United States on Oct. 21. It has made one more round trip, and planned its third trip for last week, after Transport Topics went to press, said Guillermo Perez, the company’s transportation manager.

The carrier has one truck and two drivers approved for the program, and hopes to enter more trucks and drivers into it soon, Perez added.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood he was “deeply concerned” that FMCSA passed Grupo Behr through the audit process and granted operating authority to Transportes Olympic despite concerns raised about both carriers in public comments.

“I am disappointed that FMCSA failed to detect problems in Grupo Behr’s performance record,” Rockefeller wrote in his Oct. 31 letters.

Comments showed concern over the carrier’s out-of-service rate, violation rate and insurance issues.

“I am also disappointed that FMCSA is allowing carriers to apply time from previous cross-border programs toward the 18-month requirement for permanent operating authority,” Rockefeller said, referring to FMCSA’s decision to grant Transportes Olympic permanent authority based on the time it had amassed during the previous demonstration program.

In reaction to Rockefeller’s letter, FMCSA said it is “currently investigating” Grupo Behr’s operations.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the Teamsters union, contending the cross-border program is illegal, was moved Nov. 4 to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, court records show.

FMCSA petitioned for the move, telling the court a similar complaint had been filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in the D.C. Circuit in July.

Federal code requires that, because OOIDA filed its complaint within 10 days of FMCSA’s decision to institute the cross-border program, similar complaints must be combined into the OOIDA lawsuit, FMCSA said.