Tagged: safety

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Local trucking firms butting heads with Border Patrol

Newly enforced regulations prohibiting Mexican truck drivers from transporting cargo loads picked up at local warehouses to another location within the United States are creating a headache for trucking and logistics companies.

The issue stems from commercial violations of so-called “cabotage” regulations, a provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement that prohibits foreign truck drivers from lugging cargo that originated in the United States to a final destination within the country.

The issue prompted the owners of local trucking and logistic companies to convene a meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss possible solutions to the problem. More than 25 people attended the gathering at WS Trucklines off Old Tucson Road, with most expressing concerns that if the problem isn’t fixed, they may have to close their businesses or lay off employees.

“Long story short, if we don’t fix this soon, 100 companies will close in Nogales,” said Jimmy Watson, Jr., who runs local trucking company JSJ Enterprises with his father Jimmy Watson, Sr.

Watson said that while the regulations have long been in place, they weren’t being enforced by local Border Patrol agents at the Interstate 19 checkpoint.

That changed, however, when Patrol Agent in Charge Sabri Dikman took over the Nogales Station in June, Watson said.

Though the group had until Oct. 1 to comply with the regulations, an email from Eric Lee, watch commander at the Nogales Border Patrol Station, to Luis Velasco of Athena Logistic Solutions, which the group provided to the NI, states: “The Chief of Tucson Sector has agreed to give local companies more time to get their operations in compliance before we start enforcing the regulations.”

The group now has until Jan. 1, 2018 to come into compliance.

“This is just an aspirin for the headache that is coming,” Watson told the group.

Change in attitude

In an emailed statement Thursday morning, the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector public information office said: “Federal immigration regulations and policies provide that foreign commercial truck drivers may qualify for temporary entry with a B-1 visa to pick up or deliver cargo traveling in the stream of international commerce.”

B-1 Temporary Business Visitor visas are meant for people who are participating in business activities in the United States. In the case of truck drivers here on a B-1 visa, they must enter the United States with a trailer loaded with foreign merchandise and deliver it to its final destination, remaining in the stream of international commerce.

They cannot, however, unload the cargo locally and then reload their trucks with merchandise stored at warehouses in Nogales and Rio Rico. Doing so would be a violation of cabotage regulations, also known as point-to-point hauling, because it would be considered domestic commerce and would be in direct competition to U.S. truck drivers.

“These regulations do not allow for commercial drivers in the United States on a B-1 visa to carry cargo in violation of cabotage laws, i.e. domestic point-to-point hauling or other purely domestic service or solicitation,” the sector’s public information office said. “Should a driver engage in such activity, he/she would be engaging in unauthorized employment in the United States in violation of (federal statutes).”

According to a pamphlet distributed by Border Patrol regarding NAFTA regulations that was provided to the NI by the business owners, drivers in violation of employment laws can have their cargo taken, visas cancelled, and will be arrested and placed in deportation proceedings. Companies in violation can also face civil and criminal penalties.

Asked why the change in attitude, the sector’s public information office said: “Border Patrol has exercised agent discretion in the enforcement of this law in the past. Reports from Interstate 19 checkpoint indicate numerous drivers transiting through the checkpoint are in violation of cabotage requirements.”

Once regulations are enforced, agents at the I-19 checkpoint will check truck drivers’ employment status and ask where the cargo loads originated.

Possible solutions

Among them, the businesses represented at Wednesday’s meeting have roughly 500 trucks, Watson said. If they’re unable to find a solution by the Jan. 1 deadline, it would mean a significant blow to the local economy, he added.

The group brainstormed various ways in which they could come into compliance with federal regulations, including hiring U.S. truck drivers, obtaining H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker visas for their employees and lobbying local, state and federal officials.

However, following through with those suggestions is easier said than done.

Nationwide, there is a shortage of U.S. truck drivers, and the group noted that the older average age of truck drivers on the road means there will be even more vacancies in the coming years.

Watson and others in attendance, including Luis Rivera of L&R Trucking and Salvador Gonzalez Luna of Goza Trucking, said they’ve run classified advertisements and visited the Santa Cruz County One Stop Career Center, but have been unsuccessful in their search for American drivers.

They said many potential drivers want to work Monday-Friday, drive locally or within the state and be paid in cash, demands that aren’t realistic, Gonzalez said. He added that many insurance companies also require that drivers have three years experience, which makes it difficult to attract younger drivers who have recently received their commercial driver’s license.

Still, Watson encouraged the group to reach out to the One Stop Center and also sign up to participate in the county job fair next month.

Another obstacle has been obtaining H-2B visas. Isaias Salas, owner of WS Trucklines, and Rivera said despite hiring a lawyer to help them with the application process, they’ve been denied multiple times. Velasco of Athena Logistic Solutions, who said he applied on his own and received a response from the Department of Labor, encouraged the group to submit the applications themselves before hiring a lawyer.

In addition to seeking American drivers more aggressively and applying for H-2B visas, the group also discussed creating a trucking association, helping to eliminate some of the competition among them, and also working with immigration lawyers and government officials who can help get their needs addressed.

“We’re not opposed to the regulations,” Gonzalez said. “We want to do things right, but we need help.”

Coincidentally, the meeting Wednesday came a day after the Arizona Department of Transportation held a training with Mexican truck drivers in Nogales, Sonora as part of an effort aimed at helping them cross the border more efficiently.

The ADOT effort, which teaches commercial drivers what to expect during safety inspections when they cross through a port of entry, seeks to reduce long lines at the port. It’s part of on-going effort to build better relationships between truckers and federal and state transportation inspectors at the Mariposa Port of Entry, which local and state officials believe is crucial to cross-border trade.

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Watch the moment reckless lorry driver strikes level crossing barrier …

Comments (0)[1]

CCTV of a Bulgarian lorry driver shows the moment he carelessly drove over an Essex[2] level crossing as the barriers were descending.

Tencho Hristov, of Pelham Road, Lincolnshire appeared before Chelmsford[3] Crown Court on Thursday (September 14) where he was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

He had been found guilty of one count of obstructing any engine or carriage using the railway, a wilful omission or neglect, and one count of failing to report a road accident.

The incident, which occurred on June 21 of this year, damaged the level crossing adjacent to Roydon[4] station in Essex.

ALSO READ: Bulgarian driver jailed for trapping HGV on level crossing at Roydon station and smashing barrier[5]

At around 10.45am, Hristov approached the level crossing and the lights began illuminating which indicated the barriers were about to lower.

Hristov, however, proceeded to drive over the crossing despite the warnings. This resulted in the barriers becoming trapped between the driver’s cab and the trailer.

The train tracks were then dangerously obstructed by his vehicle.

Hristov jumped out of his cab and then walked around the vehicle for three minutes, failing to alert the emergency services to a potentially impending disaster. Eventually, he returned to his vehicle and drove forward, causing damage to the barriers.

He drove away from the area and did not report the incident to police[6].

The cost of repairing the level crossing, as well as delays caused to services is estimated to be more than £23,000.

Inspector Steve Webster from British Transport Police, said: “Because of Hristov’s recklessness, there was a very real risk that the approaching train could have collided with the truck. Instead of calling the emergency services – like a sensible person would – or even moving his vehicle to safety, he remained on the tracks, inspecting his vehicle, when a train could have collided with him at any moment.

ALSO READ: British Transport Police say death of person struck by train at Ingatestone is ‘unexplained’[7]

“It is difficult to understand why road users continue to ignore the warning signs at level crossings. Trains travel at extremely high speed and impatience can have serious consequences. I would remind motorists to obey warning lights and do not drive over the crossing when the barriers are in action.

“I welcome this tough sentence that Hristov was handed as hopefully it will deter anyone else from thinking they can illegally drive over a level crossing. Thankfully, signallers were able to alert the driver of the approaching train before any serious injury was caused. A disaster was very narrowly avoided.”

The 30-year-old was handed an eight month custodial sentence and a two year and eight months driving ban.

References

  1. ^ Comments (0) (www.essexlive.news)
  2. ^ Essex (www.essexlive.news)
  3. ^ Chelmsford (www.essexlive.news)
  4. ^ Roydon (www.essexlive.news)
  5. ^ Bulgarian driver jailed for trapping HGV on level crossing at Roydon station and smashing barrier (www.essexlive.news)
  6. ^ police (www.essexlive.news)
  7. ^ British Transport Police say death of person struck by train at Ingatestone is ‘unexplained’ (www.essexlive.news)