Differences Between U.S., Mexican Laws on Truck Safety

AUg. 13, 2004

Differences Between U.S., Mexican Laws on Truck Safety
Must Be Addressed Before Border Opens, Groups Say

Five Groups Call for U.S.Department of Transportation to Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Significant differences between U.S. and Mexican highway safety laws have yet to be addressed by government officials preparing to open the U.S. border to Mexico-domiciled trucks, representatives of five public interest organizations said today in a letter sent to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Norman Mineta.

The letter lists six areas in which vital safety policies must be reconciled before the border opens to long-haul truck traffic: commercial driver license requirements, alcohol and drug testing systems, rules for the transport of hazardous materials, the lack of a motor carrier information database, the lack of compliance by Mexican carriers with U.S. safety standards, and the verification of insurance. The groups signing the letter are the Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Public Citizen and the Trauma Foundation.

 “It is imperative that all trucks operating on U.S. roads meet U.S. safety standards, which means that these critical areas of difference between U.S. and Mexican law must be addressed before  trucks from Mexico are given the green light to haul goods throughout the United States,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “These are important safety matters that demand attention.”

 In response to a ruling from a tribunal established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), President Bush in 2001 ordered the border to open to long-haul trucks (short-haul trucks from Mexico are currently allowed to enter the country and remain in a 20-mile zone).  Congress then imposed a number of requirements to ensure that Mexico-domiciled carriers met the same safety and operating standards as U.S. carriers. During debate on this legislation, Mineta promised that “every Mexican firm, vehicle and driver that seeks authority to operate in the U.S. … must meet the identical safety and operating standards that apply to U.S. and Canadian carriers.” The border opening was delayed after Public Citizen and other organizations filed an unsuccessful lawsuit over the administration’s lack of an environmental study on emissions from trucks from Mexico.

However, significant differences remain between U.S. and Mexican law, regulation and procedure, the groups wrote. “It does not appear that these differences in regulations and recent changes in U.S. law have been taken into account.”

For instance:

The United States requires criminal background checks for commercial driver licenses; the Mexican government apparently doesn’t. The United States also uses passenger vehicle license suspensions and revocations as disqualifying offenses for a commercial driver license; Mexico doesn’t.

  • Compliance by the Mexican government with U.S. drug and alcohol testing standards cannot be ensured under the current system because the U.S. government hasn’t determined whether drug and alcohol testing facilities in Mexico meet U.S. standards. 
  • Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has imposed new security requirements for drivers hauling hazardous materials, but it is unclear how and whether Mexico-domiciled carriers intend to meet these standards.
  • The DOT must clarify whether U.S. enforcement authorities will have quick access to a database of information about the history, licensure and operating authority of Mexico-domiciled carriers.
  • Steps to certify Mexican trucks as in compliance with U.S. safety standards are missing.
  • Procedures for verifying insurance on Mexico-domiciled carriers are inadequate.

  “It’s only fair that Mexico-domiciled trucks meet the same hard-won safeguards that U.S. trucks must,” said Daphne Izer, founder and chair of Parents Against Tired Truckers. “We want to know the trucks are safe and the drivers are well-rested and within the regulations.”

 The DOT Inspector General is expected to issue a report soon on the status of safety and border infrastructure issues.

 To read the letter, click here.