NOGALES – On a Monday morning one year ago, five uniformed officers from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Enforcement and Compliance Division drove south, crossing the Mexican border at San Luis south of Yuma on a mission that had never been attempted.
Their task: Make Arizona roads safer and boost the state’s economy by training Mexican truck drivers and mechanics – in Mexico – about the safety regulations they must follow to drive on U.S. roads.
In its first year, the International Border Inspection Qualification program has made a dramatic difference in the number of violations found during safety inspections, the number of trucks pulled off the road for significant repairs and the amount of time drivers spend waiting at the border before they can deliver their products to U.S. markets.
“This collaboration with the Mexican trucking industry makes crossing the border safer for everyone,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “It also supports the growth of Arizona’s economy and makes crossing the border more efficient for commercial trucking. The dramatic improvements we have seen in just one year show the commitment of our officers and the trucking community to this important program.”
In 16 two-day training sessions over the past 12 months, safety inspectors have taught 409 truck drivers and mechanics from Mexico such things as how to secure a load properly and how to know when tires and brakes are too badly worn. Six more sessions are scheduled in Mexico before the end of 2018.
The training follows Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance guidelines, which are the standard for commercial motor vehicles across the U.S., used by every state and federal agency.
The numbers for these 409 drivers shout success:
- They have crossed the border 5,253 times since their training.
- In all of those crossings, inspectors have found just 130 minor violations.
- Only 11 times have their trucks been pulled out of service for significant safety concerns.
- June is one of three months so far in 2018 when no drivers who were qualified through the program had significant safety violations.
There’s more to the story.
Drivers who complete the training and pass written and field exams are able to communicate with inspectors using the WhatsApp smartphone application. That process has been used 118 times, allowing drivers to ask questions and make repairs before approaching the border, saving what could have been time wasted waiting.
The program stems from ADOT’s use of the Arizona Management System championed by Governor Doug Ducey to have all employees continuously improve state agencies’ value to their customers.
ADOT’s Border Liaison Unit, created in 2016, also has continued shorter training sessions at Arizona’s three border ports of entry in San Luis, Nogales and Douglas. Nearly 2,000 drivers, mechanics and company owners have attended those sessions.
Drivers from Mexico have praised ADOT for giving them information they need to reduce inspection times and get on their way. The business community in Nogales has praised the program for increasing commercial truck traffic and bringing more business to Santa Cruz County. And drivers all across Arizona are safer because the trucks sharing the road with them are safer.
Companies and communities in Mexico are continuing to request that training sessions be held in their areas. Of the six programs scheduled over the rest of 2018, only one is scheduled near the Arizona border. Three programs are scheduled in Mexicali, Baja California, and single sessions are scheduled in Caborca and Hermosillo in Sonora.
“We’re getting requests from places away from the Arizona border – Mexicali, Ensenada, Caborca,” said Tim Lane, director of ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division. “That shows how well the program has been accepted not only in Sonora but across Mexico.”