March 14, 2002
The United States today took another step toward safe implementation of the southern border truck and bus crossing provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The U.S. Department of Transportation established tough safety requirements for Mexican motor carriers operating to and from the United States and required that all motor carrier safety inspectors, auditors, and investigators be certified.
"President Bush and I are committed to extending the benefits of free trade throughout North America while ensuring that a strict and rigorous safety regime is established and enforced," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. "The steps taken today will help ensure that all trucks, buses and drivers entering the United States from Mexico meet U.S. safety standards and operate safely on U.S. roads when we implement the truck and bus provisions of NAFTA."
With today's regulatory action, Mexican carriers applying to operate anywhere in the United States will be required to have a distinctive USDOT number, have their vehicles pass a safety inspection, and undergo intensified safety monitoring during an 18-month provisional period, and provide supplemental safety certifications as part of the application process. Mexican commercial vehicles will be permitted to enter the United States only at commercial border crossings and only when a certified motor carrier safety inspector is on duty.
The regulations also will require Mexican carriers operating in the United States to have a drug and alcohol-testing program, a system of compliance with U.S. federal hours-of-service requirements, adequate data and safety management systems, and valid insurance with a U.S. registered insurance company. The carrier's ability to meet these requirements will be verified by a safety audit conducted by qualified U.S. inspectors prior to receiving provisional authority to operate to and from the U.S.
At least half of these safety audits, which are to be conducted by qualified inspectors, must take place in Mexico. In addition to safety audits, all Mexican carriers granted provisional operating authority will undergo full safety compliance reviews during the 18-month provisional period.
FMCSA intends to provide Mexican carriers educational and technical assistance before the border opens and as they apply for operating authority.
The rules announced today include requirements that meet terms in the Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2002, signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 18, 2001. They comprise a final rule, three interim final rules and a proposed rule by the Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA plans to publish similar rules later this year for all new entrant carriers who seek motor carrier authority to operate in the United States.
In companion documents, the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed rules and procedures that manufacturers would be required to follow to retrofit vehicles with certification labels, complementing FMCSA's proposal that all trucks and buses operating in the United States carry labels certifying that they meet U.S. federal motor vehicle safety standards at the time of manufacture.
Today's rulemakings are among the actions that the U.S. Department of Transportation is taking to prepare for opening the border for Mexican truck and bus operations, which is expected by mid-year.
Additional information about the five FMCSA regulatory actions posted at the Federal Register can be accessed at: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ . NHTSA's proposals are on the Internet at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ and a fact sheet is at www.dot.gov/affairs/briefing.htm .
The regulatory documents are in the USDOT docket (Docket Numbers FMCSA-98-3297, FMCSA-98-3298, FMCSA-98-3299, FMCSA-2001-11060, FMCSA-01-10886, NHTSA-02-11592, NHTSA-02-11593, and NHTSA-02-11594). To be considered, written comments on the interim rulemakings and proposals should be sent to the USDOT docket facility before the date indicated in each document. Comments should be sent to the attention of the specific document number, Room PL?401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC. The rules and comments filed in each rulemaking are on the Internet and can be viewed there by searching for the docket number at http://dms.dot.gov/ . Comments also may be submitted electronically at this site.
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