Southern Arizona leaders wary of proposed border trucking inspection facility

396,489. That is the number of trucks that passed through the Arizona-Mexico border last year and, consequently, the number of trucks that needed to be inspected. 

Every truck and bus that passes through the border must be evaluated to ensure it meets all safety regulations. With tens of thousands of trucks and buses traveling through the border every month, Arizona is a high-risk state for transportation inspection inefficiencies. 

To help alleviate this problem, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) signed a memorandum of understanding to share a truck safety inspection port in Nogales and San Luis. The collaborative port facilities allowed truck drivers to make just one inspection stop instead of two, thereby making their travel process much more seamless. 

“At the border, what we were able to do many years ago was to have both the Feds and ADOT collocated in the same facility,” Ramirez Advisors president Luis Ramirez said. “Earlier this year, after months of negotiations, ADOT and the Federal Motor Carriers Administration negotiated an operational agreement so that when they’re collocated, there’s a defined protocol about how to inspect trucks, which trucks get inspected, who is the ultimate decision-maker — all of those types of things. That was seen as a very successful agreement. Since February when that was signed, we’ve seen a tremendous drop in the number of complaints at the border by truckers.” 

That is why, when the FMCSA announced its plans to develop a new, stand-alone facility, “it took everybody by surprise,” Ramirez said. The creation of a separate facility expunges any efficiencies that the joint facility initially created. 

“It took everybody by surprise and we see it as a step back of everything we’ve been able to accomplish over the past two or three years,” Ramirez said. “So, there are many in opposition to this new facility for the Feds. This is a redundant duplication of effort, it does not lead to enhanced safety of our roads, it’s just that they do their own thing in their own facility rather than in a shared, collocated approach.”

Gerardo Sanchez, the mayor of San Luis, and the board of supervisors of Santa Cruz County have both written letters to the General Services Administration expressing their support of the existing facilities and the opposition to the proposed FMCSA facilities. 

“The approach that ADOT has embraced takes a holistic approach to truck safety,” Mayor Sanchez wrote. “It goes into Mexico to train truck drivers on the inspection process, it enables certified drivers to communicate with officers via WhatsApp before they start their approach to the border, and they have found ways to streamline the safety inspection process for those trucks that require the inspection before they hit the Arizona roads. The end results have been greater compliance by truck drivers and enhanced safety of our roads. Thus, our dismay at hearing that the General Services Administration is moving forward with the Environmental Impact Study for the construction of new, standalone truck facilities for FMCSA.”

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors writes that the new facilities, “will result in inefficiencies at the border, increase costs for industry, result in more congestion, expend limited federal funds in unnecessary projects…and negatively impact trade and commerce.” 

The development of new facilities is not only redundant but also detrimental to border transportation. As the Santa Cruz County board of supervisors points out, “This proposal is antithetical to what has been done to date.”

Ben Norman

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