Arizona Department of Transportation instructors are traveling to Mexico to teach courses in safety and compliance as part of an initiative to speed up inspections and cut down on wait times at the border.
Each day, hundreds of commercial trucks travel across the border. Last year, ADOT heard from the Mexican trucking industry about inconsistent inspection procedures at different ports that led to long wait times, according to ADOT public information officer Tom Herrmann. In response, ADOT retrained inspectors, standardized the process and created a Border Liaison Unit to offer additional training in Mexico.
"We developed a training program so truckers would know exactly what we're looking for. Our bottom line is to be safe. We want the roads to be safe as those trucks go into Arizona," Herrmann said. "We also don't want to hold up those trucks any more than we have to."
More than two dozen drivers and mechanics attended a course offered in a warehouse in Nogales, Sonora in early April. Since launching less than a year ago, more than 350 people have enrolled in the two-day class, where they go over safety requirements and take a test at the end. Several hundred more have received similar training at half-day courses offered at the ports.
After passing the course, participants can also use the messaging app WhatsApp to communicate directly with ADOT inspectors about potential issues before arriving at the border.
"They don't have to go back across the border for repairs. They can fix their trucks before they come here," Herrmann said.
Safety is the main driver for the training, which has an added benefit of boosting Arizona's trade industry. Jaime Chamberlain operates J-C Distributing in Nogales, Arizona, and imports produce from Mexico. He said business has improved since the training began because trucks can make more trips as a result of accelerated inspections.
"We used to have wait times before the Border Liaison Unit of anywhere between an hour and a half, sometimes two hours to cross the border. And now we've cut those wait times to less than half an hour," Chamberlain said.
Herrmann said ADOT is working on meeting growing demand for the course in Mexico. "We've gone down to Hermosillo. We're going down further into Sinaloa to reach more drivers and more companies."