TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Trucking companies in Nogales are speaking up and saying no to a new truck inspection facility.
The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration share space at the Mariposa Port of Entry and inspect trucks under the same roof. Now, FMSCA wants its own space. Trucking companies, the city and ADOT want to put the brakes on this plan.
The U.S. General Services Administration has partnered with the FMSCA on the project. Andra Higgs, the Public Affairs Officer for GSA, released the following statement to KOLD News 13:
"The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), through its Public Buildings Service, manages projects for federal agencies which involve renovations, restorations, modernization and construction of new buildings. As part of its mission to provide facilities for federal agencies, GSA has partnered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) to develop inspection projects at a number of land ports of entry (LPOEs) so that FMCSA agents can safely and effectively inspect both commercial truck and bus traffic. These GSA-led projects are intended to provide FMCSA with long-term facilities (leased or owned) to meet their future mission requirements. The FMCSA currently operates on short-term leases and agreements.
But trucking companies said if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
“Once you set up another inspection facility like that inevitably there’s going to be delays. There’s going to be more inspections and it’s going to cost importers time and money,” said Guillermo Valencia of Valencia International.
Valencia has voiced his concerns since the government’s plans were presented at a public hearing in July. Valencia said having two facilities will cause companies to re-route.
“Businesses are going to take the path of least resistance,” he said. "If there is less resistance somewhere else and they’re still complying with the federal regulations, they’re going to go that way.”
ADOT agrees and released the following letter to project leaders:
“The addition of redundant FMCSA facilities will ultimately show no improvements in operational efficiencies, result in redundant enforcement for legal commerce and cost taxpayers more--with no discernible benefit to safety or enforcement.”
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors chimed in as well, release the following statement.
“Santa Cruz County is home to one of the largest ports of entry for both commercial and non-commercial traffic. We are the gateway for approximately 85% of Arizona’s trade with Mexico and approximately 45% of the tourism. What happens at the ports of entry in Santa Cruz County is of significant impact to Arizona and the nation.”
In February 2019, ADOT signed a Memorandum of Understanding with FMCSA to extend a lease agreement for five years.
Before this, the two agencies haven’t always used the same approach to inspections. ADOT said this led to some drivers complaining about redundant inspections that slowed down commerce.
ADOT then partnered with FMCSA to establish a shared, risk-based approach to inspections. Drivers with proper up-to-date credentials can now pass quickly and get back on the road. Those without current safety stickers or credentials or if a truck has a visible defect, they are stopped. If necessary, the trucks can be forced out of service.
But the FMCSA and GSA said the current facility they lease from ADOT was not built for safe inspection of vehicles.
FMCSA inspectors currently inspect bus and commercial truck traffic along land ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In April 2018, FMCSA received funding from Congress to develop, design and construct facilities that would let them to meet their mission goals safely and effectively.
GSA said to achieve this, six inspection facilities will be needed at five different land ports of entry in California and Arizona.
Those sites are San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Calexico East in California and San Luis II and Nogales in Arizona.
In Nogales-- GSA said the proposed facility would be located on privately owned land, north of the existing inspection facility shared with ADOT. They have three options now:
- Build the facility
- “No action,” aka not building a facility
- Collocation concept, an idea that the FMCSA supports. The two Arizona locations are Nogales and San Luis
The options have companies and Valencia feeling more optimistic, but still aware of the long road ahead.
“It’s a good sign, it doesn’t make us happy because we haven’t really achieved anything," he said. “But now we know we have their ear and they’re listening. We just got to stay on top of it and keep on telling them why. Why it is doing something else is better for everybody."
Right now, GSA is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to look at impacts and alternatives to construction.