Rigorous licensing requirements for commercial truckers are a crucial component of keeping our highways safe. With hundreds of thousands of commercial trucks operating on our roadways, it is important that the drivers are properly trained and tested before they are allowed behind the wheel. But there’s one situation where the U.S. is turning to a foreign country to make sure truck drivers know what they’re doing: the “U.S.-Mexico Cross-Border Trucking Pilot Program.”
This program is a NAFTA initiative aimed at allowing Mexico-based motor carriers to operate throughout the entire United States, with the same rights being granted to U.S.-based motor carriers. In order to make the program a reality, however, the U.S. needed to recognize the Mexican equivalent of a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which in Mexico goes by the initials LF (for Licencia Federal de Conductor). Since 1991, the United States has had a Memorandum of Understanding with Mexico where the U.S. agrees to recognize LFs if Mexico meets certain requirements related to driver training and testing.
This week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a report raising concerns about Mexican-issued commercial driver’s licenses for truckers operating in the United States. Over the last several months, the FMCSA has expressed some concerns over the continued acceptance of LFs in the United States and the terms of that Memorandum of Understanding.
To address these concerns, the FMCSA undertook site visits at Mexican driver training, testing and licensing locations. Officials visited nine training centers throughout Mexico to determine if licensed drivers are actually put through similar training and education programs that the U.S. requires if they are going to operate in the United States. In the end, the FMCSA decided that the schools were close to full compliance, but that improvements were needed. Some of the problems highlighted were:
- Schools that allow students to pass a licensing exam even if they score below 80%, in violation of U.S. regulations
- Schools using licensing exams with insufficient questions to tests students’ knowledge
- Schools failing to include certain required subject matter areas on licensing exams
- Use of private testing centers as opposed to requiring all drivers to be tested at state-run centers
The FMCSA reported its findings to the Mexican government agency in charge of licensing drivers, which has committed to taking action to correct any deficiencies in licensing practices. In addition, based on concerns found mostly at private testing centers, the FMCSA will only approve licenses for drivers that were actually tested at state-run test centers.