Ports of entry are the gateway for trade in Arizona. From working with California to pass along energy resources to sharing produce and manufacturing with Mexico, it helps to have more efficient processes to keep things moving. That’s why the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is expanding a program that helps streamline the process to inspect commercial trucks crossing the border from Mexico.
The International Border Inspection Qualification program that ADOT started in July of 2017, is helping to improve timeliness and safety of all commercial motor vehicles crossing international ports. Since its inception, the program has expanded into California and deeper into Mexico, where ADOT is hoping to lure more businesses to cross through into Arizona.
Every year, about 400,000 commercial vehicles cross through Arizona’s six land ports of entry. ADOT’s aim is to provide consistency across each port when it comes to inspections so drivers can expect the same system whether they’re going through San Luis or Nogales.
ADOT also introduced a certification course that teaches truck drivers about identifying potential violations. From there, drivers can help to report these potential violations via the messaging application Whatsapp with the goal of reducing the amount of time certified drivers spend waiting at the border before they get to Arizona. This will help officers at inspection points check on trucks without certification that also pose a greater safety risk on the highways.
Drivers who have gone through the program and obtain certification don’t have to wait on long inspection processes, which helps ADOT track down trucks that do need to be pulled over and inspected more thoroughly.
According to Tom Herrmann, public information officer at ADOT, while 99.9 percent of all certified drivers crossed the border in compliance in December, only .66 percent who were not certified had violations.
“What we have seen is a contrast in the safety inspection results for drivers who have completed the training and those who have not,” says Herrmann. “With a volume of more than 1,100 border crossings every day, even small percentage improvements make a huge difference in truck safety.”
Nearly 600 drivers and mechanics have gone through the program in the last year and a half and have crossed the border more than 11,000 times. This makes having a certification such as this real handy, especially during peak winter produce season in December.
Halfway into its second year, ADOT has expanded the program into Mexico with 25 courses available. Most of the sessions have focused on the neighboring state of Sonora, Arizona’s main artery of cross-border trade, but has also opened up opportunities for certification in places like Baja California and Sinaloa, and the first American course in San Diego.
“We want to remove obstacles for drivers to learn about safety regulations. We hold most of our sessions in Mexico – something no state Department of Transportation has done before – to make them more accessible for drivers who cannot spend time waiting to cross the border,” explains Herrmann. “And we go to locations further than just along the Arizona border to reach the widest possible audience and encourage those drivers to cross the border in Arizona, creating a boost for the Arizona economy.”
ADOT inspection officers focus on road and safety compliance instead of cargo safety inspection by U.S. Customers and Border agents. From checking blinkers to looking at air pressure on tires, the inspection officers care more about overall safety for the driver and others on the road. The process can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or longer.