II. Responsibilities of Governmental Agencies and Private Entities at the Texas-Mexico Border Crossings
Several U.S. and Mexican federal, state, and local governmental and non-governmental agencies have direct and indirect roles in the Texas-Mexico border crossing process. These agencies regulate the process, enforce laws and regulations, or facilitate the safe movement of cargo and people into the United States.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) provides and maintains the port of entry facilities used by the federal inspection agencies and state and local agencies. GSA owns all the border stations—except for the Starr-Camargo International Bridge—and is responsible for their design and operation. The federal and state agencies operating in the border station pay rent to GSA based on the amount of space they require.
U.S. Federal Agencies
The U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Services are the primary federal agencies controlling the northbound, from Mexico into the U.S., border crossing process. They conduct primary and secondary inspections of drivers, passengers, vehicles, and cargo. Inspectors from both agencies have been authorized to perform primary inspections for both customs and immigration purposes.
Primary inspections are always conducted at the border crossing. A primary inspection includes quick reviews of personal identification and citizenship, cargo documentation, and vehicle inspection. Secondary inspections are conducted at border crossing lots. Secondary inspections include more detailed reviews of cargo documentation, cargo, and drivers.
U.S. Customs Service
U.S. Customs’ gateway function is to ensure that “all goods and services entering and exiting the U.S. do so in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations.” To accomplish this mission, Customs’ responsibilities include:
- regulating and facilitating the movement of carriers, people and commodities entering the U.S.;
- assessing and collecting duties, taxes and fees on international trade;
- detecting, interdicting and investigating illegally entering narcotics, drugs and contraband;
- protecting American consumers and the environment against the introduction of hazardous or noxious products; and
- enforcement of U.S. laws governing international movement of goods.
Customs implements three processes at Texas border ports of entry that affect—most often slowing—the crossing of cargo and/or people. These processes involve passenger compliance, cargo compliance and anti-smuggling compliance. Each of these processes affect either the importer, broker, or carrier of the cargo. Cargo inspection and anti-smuggling compliance are the two processes that most affect and slow cross-border commercial traffic.
Inspecting for cargo compliance ensures that all cargo entering or leaving the U.S. complies with Customs law and other federal laws. Customs examines cargo on a random basis, or for cause. If, after inspection, there is no problem, the cargo can be released. If Customs determines there is a problem, the cargo can be seized and/or a fine may be added to the duty. A shipment can be seized for several reasons, including if the cargo does not match the entry documentation, or if the cargo is contaminated.
Customs also inspects for contraband materials such as drugs and illegal weapons. As in the cargo compliance process, Customs examines the cargo on a random basis or on probable cause. If, after inspection, there is no problem, the cargo can be released. When Customs finds drugs or contraband, the cargo is seized and the individuals transporting the contraband or drugs may be arrested. The Drug Enforcement Administration is not involved in the cargo inspection function unless it is a specific task force operation.
Immigration and Naturalization Service
The Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) main responsibilities are:
(1) facilitating entry of persons legally admissible as visitors or as immigrants to the U.S.;
(2) assisting individuals seeking permanent resident status or naturalization;
(3) preventing unlawful entry, employment, or receipt of benefits by individuals who are not entitled to them; and
(4) apprehending or removing individuals entering or remaining illegally in the U.S. The INS maintains control of U.S. borders through the Border Patrol, which is responsible for securing the 8,000 miles of international boundaries.
The INS also works with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to uphold the laws of the United States.
INS has the authority to demand appropriate documentation from every person entering the U.S. at the port of entry. Consequently, INS affects international traffic every time its inspectors stop commercial and non-commercial vehicles entering a U.S. port.
Mexican truck drivers who deliver cargo to freight forwarders and warehouses on the Texas side must have a passport containing the proper visa or a Border Crossing Card before they are allowed to continue into Texas. A Mexican truck driver with the proper entry documentation (visa or card) experiences minimal delay at the primary inspection point. The commercial vehicle and cargo may also be inspected more closely at the secondary inspection area, if necessary.
Other U.S. Federal Agencies
The following federal agencies are not directly involved in every border crossing. Agency personnel become involved only in specific instances, depending on the type of cargo, condition of the vehicle, or other circumstances.
U.S. Border Patrol
The Border Patrol is the mobile uniformed law enforcement arm of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The primary mission of the Border Patrol is to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States. The Border Patrol is a component of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Border Patrol agents are not located on the ports of entry, and they patrol the international land areas between the U.S. international bridges in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Border Patrol staffing for the Southwest Border sectors in Texas, which include El Paso, Del Rio, Laredo, Marfa, and McAllen, is up 15 percent in 1999, increasing from 3,400 in 1998 to almost 4,000 field agents.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
The DEA regulates all cross-border traffic of controlled substances, narcotics and marijuana at the U.S. international borders. Exporters or importers of controlled substances are required to register with the DEA and obtain a permit. DEA agents do not work as non-commercial and commercial vehicle border traffic inspectors.
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)
The USDOT regulates the motor carrier industry through the enforcement of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Act (FMCSR). Standards set by the FMCSR cover driver qualification, safe and proper operation of vehicles, inspection and maintenance of the vehicles, and hazardous materials transportation.
A 1998 Audit Report by the Office of the Inspector General concluded that increasing the Federal inspection presence at the U.S.-Mexico border and strengthening state motor carrier safety programs would benefit the border states and Mexico from an economic and a safety perspective. DOT inspectors have been assigned to several Texas ports of entry since 1995. The DOT inspectors work in U.S. Customs Services’ secondary inspection areas at the international bridges.
Texas National Guard
The Texas National Guard provides support to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies statewide. Since April 1989, the Guard, at the request of U.S. Customs Service, has provided cargo inspection support at ports of entry. Through Operation Guardian, a commercial cargo inspection program, 104 soldiers were enlisted to support the U.S. Customs Service. Texas National Guard soldiers are assigned to El Paso, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville. Since the inception of the program in 1989, Texas National Guard soldiers have assisted in the seizure of $10.1 billion in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, currency and property.
Texas National Guard soldiers assist Customs and INS by conducting non-commercial and commercial secondary inspections at the international bridges. Guardsmen operate the fixed and mobile x-ray machines in the commercial secondary inspection areas of the ports of entry. As of December 2000, fixed site truck x-ray systems are operational at the Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates, Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the Laredo World Trade Bridge, the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity Bridge, the Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge and the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)USDA, through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), regulates the importing of animals, animal products, and animal feeding materials, plants, plant products and seeds, shipments of food, drugs or cosmetics. Shipments of agricultural products may be inspected at the port of entry or at a location where the agricultural inspection and/or fumigation may take place. None of the aforementioned products may be released into U.S. commerce without inspection and approval from the USDA. USDA inspectors are located at some international crossings.
U.S. Department of the Interior (USDI)
Wild animals and animal products may be imported only at certain designated ports. Importers must obtain permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA’s mission is to enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act and other laws designed to protect consumers’ health, safety, and pocketbooks. These laws apply equally to domestic and imported products. With the exception of most meat and poultry, all food, drugs, biological products, cosmetics, medical devices, and electronic products that emit radiation are subject to examination by FDA when they are being imported or offered for import into the United States.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
EPA regulates the transportation of hazardous waste generated by the maquiladoras in Mexico. The EPA coordinates with the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE), Texas’s TNRCC, U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. importer to ensure the safe and legal transport of hazardous wastes across the Texas-Mexico border.
Mexican Federal Agencies
In Mexico, federal agencies perform similar roles and functions as those involved in the U.S. border crossing process. Federal customs and immigration inspectors require documentation to identify cargo and individuals, collect duties, and enforce other agencies’ regulations for specific cargo. Among the agencies involved in the border crossing process, directly and indirectly, are:
- Caminos y Puentes Federales de Ingresos y Servicios Conexos (CAPUFE): CAPUFE collects tolls on international bridges and operates and administers most bridge operations on the Mexican side;
- Comisión Internacional de Limites y Aguas (CILA): The division of Mexico’s state department that oversees the boundaries for rivers and border waters;
- Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganadería (SAGAR): the Mexican counterpart of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is responsible for inspecting imported ranching and agricultural products;
- Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT): The Mexican federal agency responsible for construction, operation, and maintenance of the federal highway system, including federal toll roads and bridges. The Mexican counterpart of the U.S. Department of Transportation;
- Secretaría de Comercio y Fomento Industrial (SECOFI): The agency that oversees NAFTA negotiations;
- Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA): This agency authorizes new bridges and border crossings;
- Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público (SHCP): The Mexican counterpart of U.S. Customs;
- Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE): The Department of Foreign Relations. The Mexican counterpart of the U.S. State Department; and
- Secretaría del Medio Ambiente Recursos Naturales y Pesca (SEMARNAP): The Mexican counterpart of the EPA. It authorizes environmental impact studies.
Summary of Federal Activities
U.S. Customs Service (USCS) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) are directly involved in the border process—and in every border crossing; therefore, they are physically located at each international bridge entrance to the U.S. border station. Other federal agencies, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) are involved only in specific instances, depending on the type of cargo, condition of the vehicle, or other circumstances. These agencies are located near the border station.
U.S. and Mexican federal and local agencies on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border face similar problems and border crossing needs. However, Mexico has a strong centralized political system that has isolated most states from decision-making in Mexico City. In contrast, state and local governmental entities in the U.S. have a large degree of autonomy in funding infrastructure improvements. This difference in governing has implications for the development of coordinated solutions to problems on the Texas-Mexico border.
State and Local Governmental Agencies
State and local government agencies are not directly involved in the border crossing process, but are affected by operations at the border crossings. Agency personnel become involved only in specific instances, depending on the type of cargo, condition of the vehicle, or other circumstances.
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT)
TxDoT’s responsibilities involving the transport of goods and people in the border area include planning and designing border transportation projects; issuing and recording Texas and Mexico commercial vehicle registrations; improving coordination of U.S.-Mexico and Texas border transportation infrastructure planning; and approving international bridge construction projects before bridge sponsors request a Presidential Permit.
In addition, TxDoT’s involvement in international activities has increased since the implementation of NAFTA. TxDoT represents Texas on the U.S. International Land Transportation Standards Subcommittee (LTSS) of the NAFTA Committee on Standards-Related Measures. The LTSS is developing recommendations for the harmonization of standards for bus, truck, and rail operations and transportation of hazardous materials among the NAFTA countries: Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Other international programs include the Border Technology Exchange Program, the Joint Working Committee to facilitate communication among federal, state, and local groups responsible for transportation planning in Mexico and the U.S., the U.S.-Mexico Bi-National Bridges and Border Crossings Group, and the Southwest Border Transportation Alliance.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
DPS troopers regulate commercial vehicle traffic through the enforcement of commercial vehicle and driver safety federal and state regulations. DPS troopers periodically conduct training sessions to certify municipal police officers to enforce commercial motor vehicle safety standards. The 1999 legislature required DPS to develop a plan to use civilian inspectors to conduct commercial motor vehicle safety inspections at ports of entry between Texas and Mexico. DPS troopers work part-time at the El Paso, Laredo, and Brownsville international ports of entry.
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC)
TNRCC’s mission at the international border is to regulate the transportation of hazardous waste generated by the maquiladoras in Mexico. Mexico’s environmental authority for exporting and importing hazardous waste, the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE), coordinates with TNRCC, the Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Customs Service and U.S. importers when maquiladoras plan to ship or receive hazardous waste to or from the U.S. TNRCC staff are not located at the international ports of entry.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)
TABC’s ports of entry section enforces importation quotas and collects excise taxes on imported alcoholic beverages and cigarettes from individuals at the border crossings. While TABC collectors are located on the international bridges, they do not interact with commercial traffic.
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
The Comptroller collects state gasoline taxes on in-state and out-of-state commercial carriers. Texas became a member of the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) on July 1, 1995. Due to Mexican federal policy, Mexican-based carriers cannot obtain an IFTA license for reporting fuel tax to Texas. Mexican carriers, therefore, must either purchase a $50 trip permit prior to entering into Texas, or get an interstate trucker permit prior to operating in Texas.
City Police Departments
City police officers are authorized to regulate commercial vehicle traffic through the enforcement of commercial vehicle and driver safety federal and state regulations. City police officers are certified by DPS to enforce commercial motor vehicle safety standards. In recent years, police officers from the cities of Laredo, El Paso, and Brownsville have been certified to perform commercial vehicle inspections. The police officers must update their training periodically to keep their certification.
City police departments also coordinate with the U.S. Customs Service in the detection and detention of drunk drivers driving across the bridges. In February 1997, officers from ten South Texas police departments, U.S. Customs, INS, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission launched an attack on underage drinking to warn young people crossing the border at McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge that officers would be strictly enforcing public intoxication and curfew laws. During the three-week operation, more than 230 teens were detained and released to their parents, and more than 130 adults were arrested for public intoxication. The program ended due to lack of funds.
County Sheriff Departments
Sheriff deputies often participate in special enforcement task forces, including underage drinking programs, near the international bridges. Sheriff deputies are not authorized to perform commercial vehicle inspections.
City, County, and Private Bridge Operators
Bridge operators collect tolls and fees on entry to the crossings at the border ports of entry. Some border facilities use automatic toll collection equipment for passenger vehicles; others collect tolls manually. For commercial vehicles, toll collection is done manually and on the basis of number of axles, or on the basis of weight registered by a static scale.
Summary of State and Local Agencies and Activities
While state and local government agencies are not directly involved in the actual border crossing process, they are affected by operations at the border stations. Their responsibilities include collecting tolls (Texas bridge operators), building and maintaining the state highways leading to the port crossings and issuing permits (Texas Department of Transportation); enforcing federal, state and local regulations related to traffic and vehicle safety, special permits, and driver safety (Texas Department of Public Safety, police departments, and sheriff departments); and alcoholic beverage and cigarette tax collection (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts).
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, the Texas National Guard, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are the only state agencies that have staff located at the international bridges. Texas National Guardsmen are involved in a special federal drug interdiction task force and are present at several international bridges. TABC collectors are located on the international bridges, but they do not interact with commercial traffic. DPS troopers interact with commercial traffic, but are not assigned full-time to the international bridges.
Private agencies are not directly involved in the border crossing process, but several are very involved in the pre-border crossing activities leading up to a successful border crossing. Private agency personnel schedule and provide carrier transportation services, prepare export and import documentation, and appraise and classify import and export goods.
A shipper is a U.S. firm exporting or importing merchandise from Mexico.
Commercial Motor Carrier
A commercial motor carrier is a trucking firm which contracts to transport merchandise for the shipper or the buyer of merchandise.
Drayage carriers transport cargo between terminals and/or across the border.
Freight forwarders arrange transportation services, assemble and consolidate shipments, prepare bills of lading, and interact with customs brokers for preparation of import and export documentation. A U.S. exporter shipping its cargo to Mexico through Laredo, Texas generally uses a U.S. freight forwarder and carrier to take the cargo to the border where a Mexican freight forwarder arranges for the cargo to be transferred to a Mexican carrier.
Customs brokers interact with importers, exporters, shippers, and freight forwarders to get the necessary information to prepare documentation required by U.S. and Mexican customs laws and regulations. Documentation duties are similar for U.S. and Mexican customs brokers for exports to Mexico. Mexican customs brokers appraise the shipment, classify the goods according to the tariff schedule, inspect, and inventory the cargo. Mexican law requires U.S. exporters to use Mexican customs brokers at the border. These customs brokers are located on the U.S. side of the border.
Private Bridge Operators
There are three private international bridges along the Texas-Mexico border. The Brownsville & Matamoros Bridge (B&M) company owns the U.S. and Mexican sides of the bridges. Originally constructed in 1909, the B&M Bridge was re-constructed in 1941 and expanded in 1997. Private funds were used for the construction of the Progreso International Bridge in 1951, and the owner leases the U.S. border station facility. The Rio Grande City-Camargo Bridge opened in 1966, and the bridge operator company owns the U.S. border station facility—an exception to other private border station facilities. U.S. Presidential Permits were not required for bridges that were built before 1972.
Bank offices are located at the border to receive payment of duties and fees. Banks verify the entry documentation and accept payment for the duties and fees.
Summary of Private Activities
Non-governmental agencies indirectly involved in the border crossing process include private bridge operators, customs brokers, freight forwarders, carriers, Mexican banks, and drayage operators. Customs brokers facilitate the import and export of commercial goods by preparing the necessary documentation for shippers, importers, and carriers. Freight forwarders arrange transportation services and assemble shipments. Drayage operators transport the cargo to and from the U.S. and Mexico. More than 150 customs brokers and 400 freight forwarders operate in the City of Laredo, the largest number in any Texas-Mexico border city.
International Truck Shipments: An Overview
Federal and state legislation that regulates international truck shipments on the Texas-Mexico border are complex. This section will not delve into the complexities of transportation practices between the U.S., Mexico and Canada involving the laws, regulations and practices of bills of lading, less than truckload vs. full truckload, load consolidation, and international shipments in general.
Basically, for the purposes of this report, international truck shipments are impacted by the following factors:
1) commercial truckers from both countries are restricted to the border zones, and
2) because of Mexican or U.S. law and/or local custom, tractors and trailers are frequently changed, separate freight forwarders and customs brokers from both countries are used, and shipments may be shifted between separate warehouses and terminals on their way to and from the ports of entry on both sides of the border.
The border commercial zones for the U.S.-Mexico ports of entry in Texas are based on the number of miles from the city limit boundaries, depending on the population of the city. The Texas Border Commercial Zones (Exhibit 3) encompass areas extending between three and 15 miles north of Texas border cities. For example, the four-county area of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties comprises the South Texas Border Commercial Zone. Mexican trucks may enter Texas to deliver or pick up cargo, but cannot travel beyond the border commercial zones’ limits.
Texas Border Commercial Zones
Texas City Population Travel Miles Allowed from City Limits Boundaries El Paso 592,400 15 Fabens 1,599 3 Presidio 3,072 4 Del Rio 30,705 6 Eagle Pass 20,651 4 Laredo 126,300 8 Roma 8,059 * Rio Grande City 9,891 * Hidalgo 384,800 * Progreso 1,951 * Brownsville 266,600 *
* These cities are located in the border commercial zone of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy Counties. Mileage or population does not mandate zone limits.
Source: Texas Department of Transportation.
Commercial Shipments to and from Mexico
NAFTA contained trucking provisions providing a timetable for removal of barriers for the operation of trucking companies among the NAFTA countries. According to the timetable, on December 18, 1995, geographic access limits on Mexican trucking companies were to be lifted to allow them to provide international cross-border truck services to or from the U.S. border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In turn, U.S. and Canadian trucking companies would be allowed to provide cross-border trucking services to or from the Mexican border states of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.
However, the December 1995 implementation was delayed indefinitely by the U.S. government, and Mexican and U.S. trucking operations were restricted to border commercial zones because of concerns about the safety of Mexican trucks.
Changes of Equipment and the Drayage System
Without the drayage system, when goods are shipped from the U.S. to Mexico, the U.S. shipper contracts with a U.S. carrier to deliver the goods to Mexico. The U.S. carrier delivers the cargo to its own terminal at the border or to a forwarding agent. At some ports of entry on the Texas-Mexico border, the Mexican carrier receives the shipment in the Texas border zone area and transports it to the destination in Mexico.
When goods are shipped from Mexico to the U.S., a Mexican shipper contracts with a Mexican carrier to deliver the goods to the border zone area in Texas. The U.S. buyer contracts with a U.S. carrier to receive the shipment at the border zone in Texas and transport it to its destination in the U.S. or Canada.
With the drayage system, the process requires additional steps. At the Laredo port of entry, for example, if the cargo is delivered to the carrier’s local terminal, the forwarding agent will hire a drayage carrier to transport the cargo from the carrier’s terminal to the forwarding agent’s place of business. The Mexican drayage carrier then transports the shipment to a carrier yard in Mexico to be picked up by a Mexican carrier which delivers the shipment to the destination in Mexico.
At the Laredo port of entry, the Mexican carrier delivers the shipment to a cargo area in the Mexican border zone where the carrier unhooks the trailer and a drayage carrier transports the shipment to a warehouse in the Texas border zone. A U.S. carrier picks up the shipment at the Texas warehouse and delivers it to the U.S. destination.
The drayage system contributes to traffic congestion created as empty trucks return to their terminal in Mexico or Laredo to pick up another load. According to the Laredo Bridge System, out of almost four million commercial vehicles that crossed Laredo bridges between 1995 and 1998 (the last year data was available according to loaded and unloaded categories), 1.6 million were “empties,” or almost 40 percent (Exhibit 4.) Fifty-three percent of the empties crossed at Laredo’s Juárez-Lincoln Bridge. The traffic congestion on Interstate 35 leading into Mexico is considerably less. All commercial traffic is now directed to Laredo’s fourth bridge, the World Trade Bridge, and to the Colombia Bridge. The World Trade Bridge opened on April 15, 2000.
City of Laredo Bridge System
Commercial Truck Traffic Distribution
Gateway to the Americas Bridge Juárez-Lincoln Bridge Colombia Bridge Annual System Total 1995 Freight 167,147 236,095 13,021 416,263 Empties 602 329,551 9,563 339,716 Total Commercial 167,749 565,646 22,584 755,979 Percent Empties 0.4% 58.3% 42.3% 44.9% 1996 Freight 170,435 294,581 51,997 517,013 Empties 165 393,033 14,736 407,934 Total Commercial 170,600 687,614 66,733 924,947 Percent Empties 0.1% 57.2% 22.1% 44.1% 1997 Freight 167,101 344,041 139,639 650,781 Empties 9 395,757 31,962 427,728 Total Commercial 167,110 739,798 171,601 1,078,509 Percent Empties 0.0% 53.5% 18.6% 39.7% 1998 Freight 159,828 420,822 220,436 801,086 Empties 5 359,584 31,636 391,225 Total Commercial 159,833 780,406 252,072 1,192,311 Percent Empties 0.0% 46.1% 12.6% 32.8% 1995-98 Bridge Total Freight 664,511 1,295,539 425,093 2,385,143 Total Empties 781 1,477,925 87,897 1,566,603 Total Commercial 665,292 2,773,464 512,990 3,951,746 Percent Empties 0.1% 53.3% 17.1% 39.6%
Source: City of Laredo Bridge System and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
According to a 1999 study, there are 8,400 Mexico-domiciled motor carriers with authority to operate in the United States that are limited to operating in the border zones. The report further noted that despite the reported annual commercial vehicle border crossings of recent years, data does not exist to determine the number of Mexico-domiciled motor carrier vehicles that entered the U.S.
In summary, U.S. and Mexican law, and local custom, limit the operation of U.S. and Mexican shippers in the border zone region. Under current Mexican law, U.S. and Canadian carriers are limited to operating in a zone encompassing an area roughly 20 kilometers parallel to the international border with the U.S. Also, Canadian carriers may enter Mexico to receive goods within the 20 kilometer border zone. Under current U.S. law, Mexican carriers are limited to operating within the border zones along the four southern border states, provided they meet U.S. safety standards.
In 1998, Mexican officials requested a dispute resolution panel to review U.S. restrictions limiting Mexican truck transports. On November 30, 2000, a five-member dispute resolution panel, composed of two members each from the U.S. and Mexico and one from the United Kingdom, completed their review of the issue and rejected the U.S. law that limits Mexican trucks to within 20 miles of the U.S. border.
It is not clear if the ruling applies only to the law limiting Mexican and U.S. trucks to the border states of both countries, or if the geographic access limits have been lifted completely, thereby allowing U.S., Canadian, and Mexican trucks complete access to each other’s countries. The final ruling will not be made until February 2001. Meanwhile, Mexican and U.S. commercial trucks will continue to operate in designated commercial zones along the U.S.-Mexico border.