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Southwest Region UTC Examines Mexican Border Truck Safety

Southwest Region UTC Examines Mexican Border Truck Safety

Entrance to the El Paso Border Safety Inspection Facility.
Robert Harrison
Entrance to the El Paso Border Safety Inspection Facility.

The Southwest Region University Transportation Center (Region VI), headquartered at the Texas Transportation Institute in the Texas A&M University System, recently reported the results of a detailed safety study of trucks crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into the State of Texas. The results of this study shed new light on the public debate over the desirability of allowing Mexican trucks into the United States , and concerns that motor carriers from Mexico would not comply with U.S. motor carrier safety laws.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) was made responsible for insuring truck compliance at the state border and in 2002 began operating border safety inspection facilities (BSIFs) at the eight largest truck border crossings.

At the Texas BSIF facilities, DPS personnel look for observable safety violations with the driver, tractor, and trailer, and either permit the truck to leave the facility or send the truck to the secondary inspection bay. The secondary inspection determines if the truck should be placed out of service. Data on all trucks that undergo the secondary inspection are compiled by DPS. In 2006, there were over 3.2 million northbound truck crossings into Texas, most passing through the BSIFs, where commissioned and civilian employees inspected over 111,000 trucks.

The Southwest Region UTC analyzed BSIF data from northbound vehicles domiciled in both countries and was also able to compare data from similar trucking operations on either side of the border. Their analysis indicates that Mexican truck safety was superior in many cases to that of U.S. carriers. In fact, the Mexican vehicle out-of-service rate was better at six of the eight facilities studied, based on their analysis of a substantial BSIF database that now exceeds 400,000 truck inspection records.

The principal investigator for this project, Robert Harrison (harrison@mail.utexas.edu), was assisted by Jason West (jrwest@mail.utexas.edu). Both are at The University of Texas at Austin, Center for Transportation Research (CTR).

For more information on this research and the DOT UTC program, please visit www.utc.dot.gov. Each of these studies has been discussed in more detail in recent issues of the UTC Spotlight, a new monthly publication you can find at: http://utc.dot.gov/. The views presented in these UTC research summaries are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration or the U.S. Department of Transportation.