Reducing the Impact of International Motor Carriers and Independent Operators on Highway and Byway Accidents in the United States

Adopted October 2001 | Updated June 2005


Implementation of the NAFTA treaty provisions opens United States (US) roadways to NAFTA treaty signer motor carriers and independent operators. The fundamental issue for safety and health professionals in the U S and in NAFTA partner countries is how well non-US motor carriers and independent operators understand US laws and regulations and how well they will comply with these laws.

Historically, transportation related employers in the US have worked hard to bring their fleet liability losses under control. Unfortunately, the nature of the industry lends itself to less controllable hazards and exposures for employees and the general public; thus, in the past the industry has experienced severe and highly publicized accidents. As a result of these events plus resulting public and government concern, the US transportation industry has taken steps to better control operational hazards, which offers better protection to the public and its employees.

At the request of NAFTA officials, ASSE has participated in NAFTA related safety and health discussions in Mexico City. Thus, ASSE has a keen awareness of the issues the NAFTA members and their businesses face. This perspective is reflected in the following comments.

While NAFTA treaty signers have individual national transportation related legislation and regulation to protect their public and employees, the statutes and regulations do not align in intent and scope for all countries.

Considering the intent of NAFTA to open the national borders of the treaty signers to the free flow of commerce for the benefit of all participating nations, there is a need to develop a transportation model which addresses the roadway safety needs of participating members without seriously constraining trade.

The intent of this White Paper is not to interfere with NAFTA or the ability for international commerce conducted by motor carrier or railroad operators. However, it is the intent of the White Paper is to point out the need for any user of US roadways and railways to adhere to uniform US statute and regulation.

ASSE believes that government agencies have the responsibility to ensure uniform conformance with US statutes and regulations affecting road and rail transportation, regardless of the origin of the operators. We do not condone discrimination against operators because of national origin, type of carrier or drivers.

As example, on a regular basis Canadian motor carriers operate in the US and do so within the limits of US statutes and regulations. They are subject to and adhere to federal, state and local laws all with positive results. We suggest that the process became successful over a period of time as a result of governmental and carrier commitment supported by on-going education of the motor vehicle operators.

ASSE concludes that all NAFTA treaty countries have the opportunity to operate successfully in the US, and US transportation companies in other countries. With the Canadian transportation model to follow both government and carriers can and must develop processes which enable carriers and operators to learn US statutes and regulations, operate vehicles in conformance with US law and measure the results.

ASSE urges that Treaty affected governments and carriers adopt the following recommendations either separately or as a whole.

  • Sufficient resources are allocated to allow government motor carrier and rail carrier inspectors be put in place, with the necessary infrastructure, to assure compliance with applicable laws.
  • Consideration should be given to the use of certified qualified private inspectors to supplement or manage the inspection process.
  • Develop regulations and processes for accrediting carriers and operators who routinely cross international boarders to reduce the need for redundant inspections.
  • Establish a uniform process to ensure that all carriers demonstrate that their operators are familiar with applicable laws of the country they enter.
  • Develop within an international advisory committee structure, consisting of government agency representatives (DOT, NHTA, etc) and carrier representatives, recommended process and procedures to assure competency of international carrier operators and carrier procedures to maintain equipment in a safe mode.
  • Consideration should be given to the variety of training processes now available with computer technology.
  • North American Professional and governmental entities should be enlisted to assist the Mexican government in educating their drivers about qualifications and inspection of equipment.
  • Voluntary programs should be encouraged as a good faith effort to bring individuals and organizations into compliance.
  • Enforcement is a key issue and there should be fines and penalties for non-compliance. Fines and penalties should be on a progressive scale increasing in severity over an identified time period.
  • There needs to be strong consideration given to the creation of a viable system for third party audits and evaluations. Such a system would encourage more participation, and with the necessary checks and balances, would also assist in encouraging compliance.

Since the ASSE is structured with over 150 local Chapters across the nation, implementation of these concepts can and should be undertaken at the grassroots level by the Chapters, as they see appropriate. Licensing and education are basically local in nature, which lend themselves more readily for local hands-on implementation. Not only should ASSE's Chapters task themselves accordingly, but also they should interest sister societies and other community groups in this activity.

Finally, ASSE calls for the establishment of a North American Commercial Driver’s License to help ensure that drivers with in the North American free trade area are knowledge of all applicable laws, are sufficient fluency in each language to communicate with enforcement officers and to read signs, have appropriate endorsements for vehicle types driven and hazardous materials carried, and meet all proficiency and performance testing requirements.

Reducing the Impact of International Motor Carriers and Independent Operators on Highway and Byway Accidents in the United States

Approved 10/25/01 by the ASSE Board of Directors
Updated 6/11/05 by ASSE Government Affairs Committee

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