House committee puts strings on Mexican trucks

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure yesterday voted unanimously to approve a bill that would limit the Mexican truck program run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure yesterday voted unanimously to approve a bill that would limit the Mexican truck program run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to a maximum of 1,000 trucks and terminate the program after three years. The bipartisan vote was 66-0.

The bill, known as the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, also spells out a number of safety issues that must be satisfied before the program can begin and sets up an independent review panel to oversee the program, along with the DOT and the Transportation Inspector General, to report to Congress.

“This bill will require that Mexican drivers and trucks meet the strict safety standards for a pilot program, and will allow the oversight panel to modify or terminate the program at any time that they determine the safety of the public has been put in jeopardy,” stated Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) “Launching this pilot program without safeguards to ensure compliance with U.S. safety laws would have been a recipe for disaster on our roads.”

The Dept. of Transportation said in a statement emailed to FleetOwner:

“The Department spent more than five years working to meet conditions Congress placed on cross-border trucking in 2001 and has met every condition placed on the program. The current plan ensures the safety of our highways while creating new economic opportunities for American businesses and lower costs for American consumers. It is time to stop delaying a program that will be good for the American economy and implement the law that Congress passed 14 years ago.”

The broad support for the legislation that would effectively slow down the DOT program, which originally was slated to fulfill a NAFTA provision in 1994, underscores that the Department is facing a long road ahead to satisfy lawmakers.

On Monday DOT announced it has improved the Mexican truck program by ensuring that American companies will have the opportunity to operate in Mexico no later than Mexican companies operate north of the border—a measure intended to assuage lawmaker concerns that the program is unfair to U.S. businesses. Although there were immediate signs that the DOT made progress in satisfying Senate concerns about the program’s effect on business, it is now apparent that the House has significant concerns about its effect on highway safety.

Read DOT announces changes to NAFTA demonstration project.

To comment on this article, write to Terrence Nguyen at [email protected]

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