The U.S. Transportation Department is delaying the first permit for a Mexican trucking company to start cross-border operations, citing safety questions raised in public comments.
Grupo Behr de Baja California SA de CV, which passed a preliminary Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspection Sept. 12, won’t be able to drive in the U.S. until regulators review objections of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the agency said in a Federal Register notice to be published tomorrow.
President Barack Obama’s administration in March agreed to allow Mexican trucks full access to the U.S. market as part of a deal to end $2.4 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. goods that Mexico imposed in 2009. The dispute dates to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 1994.
Mexico agreed to roll back half the tariffs when a cross- border trucking plan was signed. The rest is to be lifted when the first Mexican company receives authorization to operate in the U.S.
“The department’s lack of homework is catching up with them,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Grain Valley, Missouri-based owner-operators association, said in an e-mail. “They still seem determined to move ahead with the program regardless of the facts associated with those who have applied to participate.”
Advocates, a Washington-based watchdog group, and the Teamsters cited FMCSA data showing that Grupo Behr had a higher- than-average incidence of its vehicles being ordered off the road. The company had 40 vehicle violations in two years, Advocates said. The owner-operators said Grupo Behr’s inspections indicated a lack of systemic maintenance.
The second carrier to get preliminary approval, Transportes Olympic de Mexico S de RL de CV, meets U.S. requirements and will receive authority to cross the border, the FMCSA said.
Transportes Olympics is owned by an individual who owns two U.S.-based companies with documented driver-fitness violations, the owner-operators said. A large number were related to lack of fluency in English, and drivers in the pilot program will be tested for language proficiency, the FMCSA said.
“The Federal Register notice speaks for itself,” Candice Tolliver, a FMCSA spokeswoman, said by telephone.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at email@example.com