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Cross-Border Operating Requirements for Mexico-domiciled Motor Carriers

The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) were developed to highlight general operating requirement questions related to cross-border transportation in the United States.  The FMCSA has published a significant number of general operating requirement FAQs for all motor carriers operating a commercial motor vehicle in the United States, therefore please refer to the FMCSA website for additional FAQs. 

NOTE:  All Mexico-domiciled motor carriers must wait until it receives the Certificate of Registration for commercial zone operations or a Provisional Operating Authority Registration for long-haul operations beyond the commercial zone. Until such documentation is issued from FMCSA, the carrier may not operate in the United States.

REGISTRATION

Q1:  Does a Mexico-domiciled motor carrier need a US DOT number and/or operating authority if they are crossing the U.S. border in a pick-up truck (small van, car or tow truck etc.) for an occasional trip to deliver goods and only traveling one or two miles into the United States?

A1:  Yes.  If the vehicle is transporting freight in commerce from Mexico to the U.S., every Mexico-domiciled motor carrier that enters the U.S. must have a US DOT number, FMCSA-assigned MX number, a valid FMCSA Certificate of Registration for commercial-zone operations, or long-haul Provisional or Standard Operating Authority Registration, regardless of the size/type of vehicle, distance traveled into the U.S. or frequency of trips.  Regardless of the type of authority the carrier obtains, no Mexico-domiciled carrier may make conduct point-to-point operations within the U.S.

Q2:  What forms should a Mexico-domiciled carrier complete to apply for a US DOT Number and operating authority registration so that they can operate within or long-haul beyond the U.S.-Mexico municipalities and commercial zones along the U.S-Mexico border?

A2:  First and foremost, all Mexico-domiciled motor carriers will need to complete Application for US DOT number – Form MCS-150 and Instructions–Motor Carrier Identification Report

The application for operating authority registration is dependent upon the type of transportation the Mexico-domiciled carrier is seeking as follows:

To obtain copies:

  • To download the forms go to:  http://www.fmcsa.dot .gov/mission/forms or,
  • To request the forms by telephone: You can call 1-800-832-5660 to have a form(s) mailed to you.
  • Once you have completed the MCS-150, OP-1 (MX) and BOC-3 forms, you must print the completed forms, sign them, and mail them to the address indicated in the instructions for each form.
  • There is a $300 non-refundable fee for the requested long-haul operating authority. Payment instructions can be found on the OP-1(MX).

Q3:  How long does it take to get an MX number, Certificate of Registration and USDOT Number?

A3:  The time it takes to obtain operating authority varies depending on the application submitted and the means by which the application is submitted.

  • US DOT number:  Can be obtained on-line the day the completed application is submitted.
  • Commercial Zone Operating Authority Registration: If the application is complete, it can be issued in approximately 4 weeks.
  • Long-Haul Operating Authority Registration: OP-1(MX) If the application is complete, it can be processed in 4-6 weeks.  [At this time, the online application process is not available; an application is completed and submitted on paper.] Prior to issuance, the carrier must submit to and pass a Pre-Authorization Safety Audit (PASA).  Once the PASA is successfully completed, the carrier will be notified of the results and of the requirement to submit evidence of insurance to FMCSA.  At the same time, the carrier’s information is published in the FMCSA Register to allow for a 10-day protest period.  At the end of that protest period and upon receipt of evidence of insurance and the BOC-3, Designation of Process Agent form, the provisional authority will be issued.

If an application is submitted and it is not completed correctly, it will be sent back to the motor carrier for correction. When the corrections are returned, they are entered in the order they are received along with any new applications that are received.

Q4:  What happens if I operate in the without authority?

A4:  A number of things could happen if you operate without authority. Regulations found at 49 CFR 392.9a(b) require that carriers operating without authority or beyond the scope of their authority can be put Out of Service. A company operating without authority is also subject to fines.

Q5:  I am a Mexican national and I have two companies, one domiciled in the U.S. and one domiciled in Mexico. Which applications do I need?

A5:  Both companies need their own authority. Although both companies may have the same owners and corporate officers, they are considered to be separate companies located in different countries. The Mexico-domiciled carrier needs an OP-2 application (for a commercial zone authority) unless they do not already have a US DOT number or other authority, in which case, they must register via the Unified Registration System. If they are a long-haul carrier that operates outside the commercial zone, they must fill out the OP-1(MX) application.

The U.S.-domiciled carrier or enterprise carrier must register for operating authority as well. For information on how to apply, click here. The motor carrier must pay the $300 application fee for each application.

Q6:  How do I change the type of authority I have (for Mexico-domiciled carriers)?

A6:  Once an MX Number has been issued and an Operating Authority or Certificate of Registration has been granted, you would need to submit a new OP-1(MX) (for U.S. long-haul operations) or OP-2 (for U.S. commercial zone-only operations) application and pay the $300 fee that is indicated on the application to obtain another Operating Authority. Registration forms can be found here.

Q7:  I have a bus company in Mexico and I want to provide service to all areas in California and to Las Vegas, NV. Do I need Operating Authority, and how long will it take to get it?

A7:  Yes, you must file an OP-1(MX) for motor passenger carrier authority beyond the commercial zone.  However, no authority will be issued for passenger operations beyond the zone until the land transportation provisions of NAFTA are fully implemented.

Q8:  I don't have authority from the Mexican Government's Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) yet. Can I still make application for OP-1(MX) or OP-2 authority?

A8:  Yes, you may apply without the SCT authority.  However, you will need to have the SCT authority (an RFC number) before FMCSA will issue the OP-1(MX) authority or OP-2 certificate of registration.

OPERATING IN THE UNITED STATES

Q1:  Does a copy of the front page of the MX Certificate of Registration satisfy the regulation 387.303(b)(4) or must a carrier have all of the pages of the Certificate on board the vehicle?

A1:  No. FMCSA requires that the carrier have the complete Certificate of Registration available for inspection (49 CFR 387.303(b)(4)).

Q2:  My certificate of registration says I can carry exempt commodities. What are exempt commodities?

A2:  In general, exempt commodities are things that have not been processed in any way such as fresh produce. There is a partial list of non-exempt commodities in 49 CFR 372.115. There is an additional list of exempt and non-exempt commodities in Administrative Rule 119, which can be found on our web site.

Q3:  What insurance and proof of financial responsibility do I need to operate in the U.S.?

A3:  Mexico domiciled motor carriers with a certificate of registration to operate within the border commercial zones have two options:  (1) obtain daily trip insurance per 49 CFR § 387.31(b)(3) or (2) meet the minimum requirements found in the table in 49 CFR Part 387.  Long-haul operators must meet the minimum requirements in 49 CFR Part 387.

Once you obtain insurance, the original copy of the form showing proof of financial responsibility (per 49 CFR Part 387) from your insurer must be maintained in the vehicle at all times during operations in the United States. 

Q4:  Must the files that I maintain in order to comply with the FMCSRs be in English?

A4:  No, there is no regulatory requirement that files be kept in English. However, any time a specific form is identified by name/number (i.e. MCS-90), the only approved form is in English.

Q5:  My trucks have both Mexico and U.S. license plates. Can I put my MX Number and my MC Number on the same truck?

A5:  No marking requirement exists for display of either the MX number of the Mexico-domiciled carrier or the MC number of the U.S. carrier.  The vehicle must be marked in accordance with 49 CFR 390.21(a) that requires the legal name or a single trade name of the motor carrier operating the self-propelled CMV, and the identification number issued by FMCSA to the motor carrier preceded by the letters “USDOT.” 

For the Mexico-domiciled motor carrier, the USDOT identification number must be followed by either the distinctive “Z” denoting commercial zone operations or the “X” denoting operations beyond the commercial zone, depending on the type of authority the company has received.

If the name of any person other than the operating carrier appears on the CMV, the name of the operating carrier must be followed by the legal name or a single trade name of the motor carrier operating the self-propelled CMV, the identification number issued by FMCSA to the motor carrier preceded by the letters “USDOT" and be preceded by the words “operated by."

LEASING

Q1:  May a Mexico-domiciled carrier lease its equipment to a U.S. company for operations in the United States?

A1:  A Mexico-domiciled motor carrier may lease its equipment to a U.S. motor carrier, provided the carrier complies with the leasing requirements found in 49 CFR Part 376. Documentation of the relationship between the U.S. motor carrier and the Mexico-domiciled motor carrier's equipment must be carried on the vehicle.

Q2:  Can a Mexico-domiciled carrier lease its equipment to another Mexico-domiciled company for operations in the United States?

A2:  Yes. They would need to comply with the leasing regulations in 49 CFR 376, Subpart B.

Q3:  Can a U.S. company lease its equipment to a Mexico-domiciled company for operations in the United States?

A3:  Yes, there is no prohibition against a U.S. company leasing its equipment to a Mexico-domiciled company for operations in the United States. The company would need to comply with the leasing regulations in 49 CFR 376, Subpart B, and comply with the limitations of the Mexico-domiciled motor carrier’s authority to operate in the United States.

U.S.-MEXICO COMMERCIAL ZONE OPERATIONS

Q1:  What is the commercial zone?

A1:  For Mexico-domiciled motor carriers, commercial zones are areas along the Southern U.S. border, or locations specified in 49 CFR 372, Subpart B that are exempt from certain regulatory provisions. Some zones are identified by name. The population of the municipality determines those that are not identified in 49 CFR 372, Subpart B. The OP-2 application instructions have a list of the border crossings and associated commercial zones.

Q2:  May a Mexico-domiciled carrier operate in the U.S. with a copy of the completed commercial zone application in the vehicle and be in compliance with the regulations?

A2:  No, that is not sufficient. The requirement is for the carrier to have on board the vehicle a copy of the complete Certificate of Registration or Operating Authority.

U.S.-MEXICO LONG-HAUL OPERATIONS

Q1:  Do I also need to file for authority to operate within the municipalities and commercial zones along the border in the U.S. if I have long-operating operating authority?

A1:  No, long-haul operating authority also allows a motor carrier to operate within the commercial zones.  However, if you only want to operate in the commercial zones, there is a different application and process.  You should follow the instructions and complete the Form – OP-2 –Application for Mexican Certificate of Registration for Foreign Motor Carriers and Foreign Motor Private Carriers under 49 U.S.C. 13902.  You will also need to submit the Application for US DOT number – Form MCS-150 and Instructions– Motor Carrier Identification Report and Designation of Agents for Service of Process – Form BOC-3 – Designation of Agents-Motor Carriers, Brokers and Freight Forwarders

Once you have completed the forms, you must print the completed forms, sign them, and mail them to the address indicated in the instructions for each form.

Q2:  What transportation does “long-haul” operating authority permit a Mexico-domiciled motor carrier to perform?

A2:  Long-haul operating authority allows a Mexico-domiciled motor carrier to transport international cargo between Mexico and points in the United States beyond the U.S.-Mexico border commercial zones. International cargo means cargo transported from a foreign country to the United States or from the United States to a foreign country.

Q3:  Are there prohibitions, special terms and restrictions to “long haul” operating authority?

A3:  Yes, the terms and conditions for a Mexico-domiciled motor carrier granted operating authority DO NOT allow:

  • Point-to-point transportation services, including express delivery services, within the United States for goods other than international cargo (International cargo means cargo transported from a foreign country to the United States or from the United States to a foreign country);
  • Transportation of hazardous materials, as defined in 49 CFR 171.8, in any amount required to be placarded in accordance with 49 CFR 172 – Subpart F, beyond the U.S.-Mexico border commercial zones of the United States;
  • Transportation of passengers in the United States; and
  • Transportation by packaging and courier services.

Q4:  What is the difference between provisional operating authority registration and standard operating authority registration granted to Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the U.S.-Mexico border commercial zones and municipalities?

A4:  Provisional operating authority registration is the authority granted to Mexico-domiciled motor carriers for at least the first 18 months of operations and until a compliance review conducted in accordance with Appendix B to 49 CFR Part 385 results in a satisfactory safety rating.

Standard operating authority registration is granted after a motor carrier has operated for at least 18 months with provisional operating authority registration, has received a satisfactory safety rating from a compliance review, and has no pending enforcement or safety improvement actions.

Q5:  After the FMCSA receives my application, what will happen next?

A5:  Once FMCSA confirms that the application is complete, it will conduct safety and security vetting of the company and complete a Pre-Authorization Safety Audit (PASA).

The PASA confirms that the applicant has safety management systems in place to be able to comply with the following Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations:

Q6:  After FMCSA completes a PASA and the applicant has passed the PASA, what will happen next?

A6:  Mexico-domiciled motor carriers who successfully pass a PASA must file required proof of financial responsibility (i.e. insurance) with FMCSA, (see 49 CFR Part 387.301) and may also be required to file an updated form BOC-3 – Designation of Agents-Motor Carriers, Brokers and Freight Forwarders designating a person to accept service of process in each of the 48 contiguous States (if they were not already designated on the BOC-3 submitted with the OP-1(MX) application). This requirement is outlined in 49 CFR Part 366 – Designation of Process Agent.

After FMCSA approves the carrier’s application, FMCSA will publish a summary of the application in the FMCSA Register to allow for a 10-day protest period.  At the end of that protest period and upon receipt of evidence of insurance and the BOC-3, Designation of Process Agent form, the provisional authority will be issued. At this time, it is unclear how much additional time this will take, but the process from application to issuance of authority can take many months.

Q7:  After FMCSA completes a PASA and the applicant has failed the PASA, what will happen next?

A7:  FMCSA will deny an application for provisional operating authority if a Mexico-domiciled motor carrier fails the PASA. If a Mexico-domiciled motor carrier fails the PASA, it may reapply for provisional operating authority after 30 days and must pay the required $300 non-refundable filing fee again.

OPERATIONS IN MEXICO

Q1:  I want to deliver freight into the interior of Mexico. What do I need?

A1:  The Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) regulates truck traffic in Mexico and it has established a program to allow U.S. motor carriers to provide long haul trucking services.   The requirements for registering and contact information may be found on the SCT web site .

Q2:  Are “Records of Duty Status” required for Mexico-domiciled drivers of commercial vehicles, when operating in Mexico?

A2:  Mexico-domiciled drivers are not required by Mexico to prepare Records of Duty Status while operating in Mexico but they are subject to hours of service limitations and must record their hours of work.  The Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) regulates motor carrier operations in Mexico. You might want to consult the SCT web site for more information on hours of service and record keeping while in Mexico.

Updated: Monday, March 5, 2018
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