On the border

July 1, 2004
MEXICO'S stringent new regulations are making it harder for Mexican customers to buy trailers in the United States and take them south of the border.

MEXICO'S stringent new regulations are making it harder for Mexican customers to buy trailers in the United States and take them south of the border.

But that's only part of the story: The regulations are going to mean that US trailer makers will be building new trailers with specifications that will allow them to be taken into Mexico.

The Emergency Mexican Official Standard NOM-EM-010-SCFI-2003 establishes the minimum safety specifications, marking, test methods, and conformity assessment procedures applicable to new or used trailers and semi-trailers that are manufactured in Mexico or abroad, and circulated in Mexico.

This is the first time in Mexico that a standard sets the safety requirements that this equipment must comply with. Previously, there were standards for tires, conspicuity tapes, and weights and dimensions, but none for trailers, including brakes, lights, etc.

Two-axle trailers must have a minimum GVWR of 79,200 lb. Axles for spring suspension must have a minimum 5/8" wall and a 25,000-lb rating, while axles for air ride suspensions must have a minimum of 5/8" wall and 30,000-lb rating. Among other regulations: Automatic slack adjusters are mandatory; brake valves must meet FMVSS-121; air-brake tank capacity should be at least 11 times the capacity of the service brakes for trailers with air ride suspensions or eight times the capacity for trailers with spring suspensions; and 2S1M ABS minimum is required.

The manufacturer of a new vehicle must deliver to the trucking company a letter stating all the data mentioned in the specifications' plate as well as a statement assuring that the vehicle complies with all of the specifications mentioned in the standard, which could be verified any time during the life of the vehicle.

Gabriel Garcia Diaz of Utility Trailers de Mexico, S.A. de C.V., says his forwarder at the border town of Laredo, Texas, has told him that there have been cases in which trailers have been detained because they don't meet the 79,200-lb minimum or do not have the proper declaration from the manufacturer — which can be the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO).

He says in some cases, they are trying to take the trailer back to the dealer that sold it to them, with the intention of getting a refund. He recommends that dealers require them to sign a document stating that they are aware of the NOM-010 requirements.

“We've just started digging into it,” says Bill DeCastro, GM of Wabash National's San Antonio group, which has an outlet in the border town of Pharr, Texas. “We sell quite a few trailers to go across. The big thing is that the buyers are taking them down and (the border authorities) are wanting line drawings of trailers and original production things.”


Says a Houston trailer dealer, “We're still selling trailers into Mexico. I know there have been some issues that have come up. They've come up with extra paperwork for us to do. (Mexican customers) are asking us to sign something that says the trailers meet the regulations when in fact they don't. ‘Will you sign this so I can take them in?’ I say, ‘No, I can't sign that. The Mexican government has to do that.’ ”

A trailer dealer in Phoenix, Arizona, who has clients in Hermosillo, Nogales, and Chihuahua says he hasn't heard of any problems getting the trailers through checkpoints on the Arizona border.

“It's one thing to have a law,” he says, “and it's another to enforce it.”

The sales manager at a Houston trailer dealer says he envisions chaos when the regulations are enforced rigidly and uniformly.

“There are no used trailers sitting around the US that meet their regulations,” he says. “The standard US-type trailer is 65,000 GVWR. That's what we've been building for years. Mexico is the only country that uses that particular rating, besides Canada, which uses a three-axle. So if that's the case, none of them are going to get across.”

He says his company, which sells an estimated $7 million worth of trailers going into Mexico through Pharr, hasn't encountered any problems with dissatisfied customers wanting to return trailers.

“We're still selling used trailers,” he says. “Whether they're stopping them at the border, we don't know. We get our cash or cashier's check, issue them the title, and sell as is. A customer has to know what he wants. We're selling trailers in the US and don't cross them into Mexico. We put on them, ‘Export Only,’ and it's their responsibility to know what the guidelines are.”

ABS snafu

The Houston trailer dealer says that the ABS requirements are going to prevent a lot of older trailers from crossing.

“It's going to force the trailers going into Mexico to be newer equipment,” he says. “That probably was their intent. To buy a $1,500 trailer and then turn around and try to install a new ABS system, that's not going to work. You're going to spend more on the ABS system than you did on the trailer.”

The regulations did not apply to new trailers built between the Dec. 24 enactment and May 1, 2004. But any new trailers built after that are required to comply.

“You're going to have to special-build those trailers that are going to be shipped to Mexico, because we don't build them to those specs here,” the Houston trailer dealer says. “It'll just be a matter of buying the heavier suspension, basically. You have to have ABS systems, which are mandatory here now, and automatic slack adjusters, which have been mandatory here for years.”

The NOM-EM-010-SCFI-2003 standards are similar to those of the NHTSA published under the 49CFR, but there are some specifics for Mexico as follows:

  • Axles for air ride suspension should have a minimum of 5/8" wall and 30,000-lb rating.

  • Axles for spring suspension should also have 5/8" wall but 25,000-lb rating.

  • Suspension capacity should be at least the same as axle capacity.

  • Wheel capacity should be at least 7,700-lb minimum.

  • Tires should be NOM stamped.

  • Air brake tank(s) capacity should be at least 11 times the capacity of the service brakes for trailers with air ride suspension or eight times for trailers with spring suspension.

  • Brake valves must meet FMVSS-121.

  • Service air brake lines should be 1/2" OD minimum, blue, and supply lines should be 3/8" OD minimum, red.

  • Air brake chambers should have a minimum 2½" stroke.

  • 2S1M ABS minimum is required.

  • Automatic slack adjusters are mandatory.

  • Lights required for dry vans: two yellow front clearance lamps; four red tail lamps; two red stop lamps; two rear red turn signal lamps; three red rear clearance lamps; one white license plate lamp; three clearance lamps per side (one yellow at the front, one yellow at the middle and one red at the rear); two marker lamps per side (one yellow at the middle and one red at the rear); one yellow turn light at the middle per side.

  • Combinations allowed: two tail lights may also be stop lights; two tail lights may also be turn signal lights if they are red; middle yellow markers may also be turn lights; front clearance yellow lamp and front side yellow clearance lamps may be one per side if located on the top corner and visible from either the front or the side; reflective tape should meet Mexican standard NMX-D-225-1996-SCFI.

  • Specification Plate should be metallic with the following data: name of manufacturer including address and phone number; trademark; manufacturing date; country of origin; VIN meeting NOM-EM-009-SCFI-2003; vehicle weight; gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR); gross axle weight rating (GAWR) indicating tire size and inflation pressure; dimensions in meters: length, width, height.

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.