AP Photo/Tony Guterrez, file
Sometimes I wonder if government just sets out to confuse us all. In this case, I saw an AP headline this morning that said," Auditor: Mexican truck safety rules still unmet.” Upon reading the news article, I found this referred to United States transportation safety personnel not meeting requirements. Since the little blurb really didn't tell you anything, I traced it back to FMCSA and found out the report was completed August 17th and was withheld for 15 days to give FMCSA time to cover their tails. Curious to find out why the FMCSA needed ‘duck and cover’ time, I hunted up the actual report and figured out something that should have been glaringly obvious all along. Namely, that if we rely on FMCSA to actually DO anything, we should also believe in the tooth fairy. This has nothing to do with Mexican trucks or carriers or drivers, except peripherally. It has to do with the failure of our own infrastructure to handle the program adequately.
Turns out that this audit was ONLY to find out if the FMCSA had done a few of the things they were told to do to correct what the Inspector general’s office saw as problems within FMCSA. All were in terms of actually making the Mexican Truck Program a traceable, viable program. Turns out (surprise, surprise) they hadn't - at least not completely.
It sounded so simple, on the surface: Here are the things they looked at to see if FMCSA had followed the recommendations of August 2007.
Section 350(c) Criteria and FMCSA’s Actions as of August 2007
(1) Hiring and training border inspectors.
--Met the criteria—On-board staff is near authorized strength and has been trained.
(2) Training inspectors conducting on-site reviews as safety specialists.
--Met the criteria—Training was completed.
(3) Not transferring inspectors to fill positions.
--Met the criteria—No transfers were identified.
(4) Implementing an hours of service policy.
--Met the criteria—Policy has been implemented.
(5) Having a sufficiently accurate, accessible, and integrated information infrastructure and adequate telecommunications links.
--Met the criteria—In place and being used.
(6) Having adequate capacity at southern border to conduct meaningful inspections.
--Substantially met the criteria. The capacity to perform truck, bus, and driver inspections are in place, but FMCSA needed to include bus inspections during peak hours, such as holiday periods, at Laredo, Texas.
(7) Having sufficient databases to allow safety monitoring of Mexican carriers and drivers.
--Substantially met the criteria. Databases are in place, but FMCSA needed to improve the consistency of Mexican traffic conviction reporting to the Mexican Conviction Database (formerly the 52nd State System).
(8) Having measures to effectively enforce and monitor Mexican carrier licensing.
--Met the criteria—Enforcement rules were implemented and states have adopted out of service criteria.
Sounds good, right? Except when you read the actual report, you’re left with the impression that the Inspector general’s office did their level best to gild the lily here. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about what the report actually says.