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U.S. Transportation Department Releases Report On Number of Trucks in Use for Crossings at U.S.-Mexico Border

April 23, 2001

April 23, 2001

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today posted on the Internet a research study, Estimates of Commercial Motor Vehicles Using the Southwest Border Crossings. The study was conducted for the FMCSA by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Based on three different analyses using data collected in 1999, the study shows that approximately 80,000 distinct trucks of U.S. and Mexican origin are estimated to have been used in U.S.-Mexico cross-operations during this period. For the same period, these vehicles made an estimated 4.5 million crossings of the border. Estimates of the number of trucks crossing the border assist the FMCSA and the states to effectively allocate and place safety inspection and enforcement resources in the border region.

During 2000, federal and state inspectors performed approximately 97,000 inspections of vehicles engaged in cross-border operations.

The three different methods employing several data sources used to determine the estimates included U.S. Customs Service information about user's fees it is required to collect for services provided at the ports of entry; U.S. Customs Service vehicle data in the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) related to port-of-entry, vehicle license plate number, and trailer identification for every commercial vehicle crossing into the United States from Mexico; and estimates derived from registration data collected by Mexico's federal transportation agency, the Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT).

At present, Mexican commercial trucking companies can apply for authority to operate in "commercial zones" associated with municipalities along the United States-Mexico border. Approximately 8,500 companies currently have such authority. The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 confined most Mexican motor carriers to these border commercial zones as defined by the former Interstate Commerce Commission. The commercial zones are often characterized as a 20-mile-wide area extending along the United States-Mexico border from Texas to California. In fact, its width varies, but in only two commercial zones does it extend further than 25 miles into the United States. One is the San Diego area, which extends approximately 75 miles to San Clemente; the other is the Rio Grande Valley zone that encompasses four Texas counties (Hildago, Willacy, Starr and Cameron). Commercial zones exist throughout the United States. They originally were established for economic regulation.

All commercial vehicles operating in the United States, foreign and domestic, must comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and all other requirements applicable to U.S. carriers.

Estimates of Commercial Motor Vehicles Using the Southwest Border Crossings is on the FMCSA web site,

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Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2014
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