I-17 101 traffic interchange

Removing mystery from commercial vehicle inspections at international ports

Removing mystery from commercial vehicle inspections at international ports

November 3, 2016

DOUGLAS – Before trucks hauling Mexican products into the United States can leave the port of entry at the border, officers from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Enforcement and Compliance Division make sure those commercial vehicles are safe to travel on Arizona roads.

Inspectors check drivers’ credentials and look for obvious safety issues. Some of the trucks are weighed and undergo 37-point safety inspections.

Before that, agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conduct their own inspections.

The faster those trucks are processed, the faster they can get on their way and boost Arizona’s economy with goods ranging from decorative rock to mini-blinds. And the better trucking companies and their drivers understand the various port of entry processes, the sooner their trucks can head north on US 191 or State Route 80.

That’s why ADOT, its federal partners and the Arizona Department of Public Safety will hold an educational event next week in Douglas. The goal: helping trucking companies understand what each agency’s inspectors are looking for and what the companies can do to avoid unnecessary delays.

Trade with Mexico is vital to Arizona. In 2015, $30 billion in both imports and exports moved through the state’s border ports, supporting 100,000 Arizona jobs.

“Events like this one in Douglas will help ensure that we continue to operate efficiently, effectively and safely at all of our border ports of entry,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “We will continue working to improve how we work at the border and on our roadways to take full advantage of our trade opportunities with Mexico.”

The event will be 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the port of entry.

ADOT enforcement officers will explain state and federal safety guidelines and regulations. They also will demonstrate inspection procedures and answer questions from trucking representatives.

“We want them to understand the process from start to finish,” said Lt. Christina Parrish with ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division. “Everything we do is based on our agency’s mission: ‘To ensure the safe and efficient movement of people, goods and services throughout Arizona while promoting compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations.’”

About 35,000 trucks come through the Douglas port every year, carrying about $4 billion in seat belts, medical garments, copper from Mexican mines and other goods. It’s Arizona’s second-busiest commercial border crossing behind the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.

The event, like others held at Arizona’s international ports, is just one way ADOT works to continuously improve the movement of international trade.

ADOT inspectors already have taken steps to reduce wait times for commercial vehicles at all ports. For example, officers have been equipped with laptop computers to enter data during an inspection rather than writing information down by hand and then entering it on the computer later.

Officers will be checking carriers’ past safety ratings while looking for obvious safety problems. They will also try to reduce wait times with two-person inspections set to begin in January, with one officer inspecting the vehicle and the other entering results into the computer.

Experience makes the best inspectors, said Parrish, a Douglas native who has worked at the port for more than 15 years.

“Once you’ve been around trucks quite a bit you learn to recognize the things that could be wrong,” she said. “You know how they’re supposed to look and sound. It becomes easier to observe a flat tire or a load that’s not secured properly."