NOGALES, AZ (KOLD News 13) - It is the middle of produce season, which means the Mariposa Port of Entry is packed.
On average, the port can see anywhere from 1,300 to 1,800 trucks per day. But that seemingly endless stream of semis are now moving faster thanks to new technology from the Arizona Department of Transportation, mixed with a first-of-its-kind program.
Lieutenant Joe Dopadre with ADOT said they used to have to stop every single truck and sell them a permit at the port. A process that took upwards of 2 1/2 minutes. Now, thanks to new cameras that scan for things like their permit or weight, the trucks can move through within seconds.
Along with the technology is a free, two-day course called the International Border Inspection Qualification Program. It started in July and August 2017, and took off from there.
"ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division officers are the first in the U.S. to travel south of the international border for safety training that teaches drivers everything from how to secure a load to when brakes need to be replaced. (part of a statement from ADOT)
Jose Estrada is an Officer in the Border Liaison Unit and one of the instructors of the IBIQ classes. He said that if the drivers from Mexico can inspect their own trucks in Mexico and if they find a critical violation they can fix it before coming to the U.S.
Social media also plays a big role in the program. Drivers and instructors utilize WhatsApp where qualified drivers can speak with inspectors before coming to the border. ADOT said about 80 percent of those calls have identified violations that were fixed before inspections, saving drivers and their companies time and money,
Not only is the program saving time and money, it’s breaking down barriers between border agents and drivers. Estrada said it makes drivers more open to asking questions and speaking up.
"If the officer is wrong, they’ll [the driver] challenge the officer right then and there. And sometimes the officer will realize, yeah I was wrong.” said Estrada.
The proof of this program’s success is in the numbers. Drivers in the program have crossed the border more than 11,000 times since their training and only 31 crossings have resulted in violations.
"And the out of service rate is barely one percent.” said Lieutenant Dopadre.
Because of the programs success, several other states have expressed interest in adopting something similar like California and Texas.
Right now, the classes are booked solid until September.