The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed in 1993 laid out a timeline that would allow Mexican trucking operations within U.S. Border States. But it wasn’t until 2007 when a “demonstration project” announced by the Department of Transportation would allow Mexican carriers (other than enterprise or certificate carriers) to operate within the U.S. border. The project was eliminated by Congress in the FY2009 omnibus appropriations bill, resulting in Mexico launching retaliatory trade tariffs against U.S. agricultural products which cost approximately $2 billion. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between President Obama and then-Mexican President Filipe Calderon ended the tariffs and set the groundwork for the pilot program that started in 2011 and expired on October 2014.
Congress required that the “number of participants in [the]pilot program must be large enough to ensure statistically valid findings.” However, only 13 carriers participated out of 132,000 Mexican-domiciled carriers; two carriers dropped out of the program, eight carriers have withdrawn their applications to participate, fourteen have been dismissed, and three failed the pre-authority safety audit (PASA)—this indicates that more carriers have withdrawn, been dismissed, or failed their PASA (27) than there are carriers with operating authority (13).
The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) submitted a report to FMCSA outlining its concerns with the management of the program. The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its final report on the program in December 2014 sharing MCSAC’s concerns that data on the pilot program is inconclusive. FMCSA responded a month later claiming that data from “enterprise” carriers (carriers that are at least 55% owned by a Mexican entity but domiciled in the U.S.) is sufficient to determine the safety and fitness of Mexican carriers to conduct long-haul operations in the U.S., even though the MOU signed in 2011 was contingent upon the performance of pilot program participants and not enterprise carriers.
Read: Regulatory Comments Archive (under “US Department of Transportation” click on “expand/collapse” next to “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration” and scroll down to .pdf documents under “Cross-Border Trucking”)