Key transportation leaders in Congress are attempting to delay a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) demonstration project that would open the southern border to 100 Mexican trucking companies.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) have co-sponsored a bill sponsored by Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-KS) that addresses concerns that the FMCSA program would compromise highway safety.
The bill, named the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, puts the following caveats on the demonstration project:
- Requires the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) project to comply with all 22 requirements of the fiscal year 2002 DOT Appropriations Act;
- Prohibits the program from being implemented until U.S.-based trucking companies are allowed to operate in Mexico;
- Requires that DOT provide an opportunity for public comment on the details of the program;
- Requires the duration of the program to be no later than one year after the enactment of the bill;
- Requires an Inspector General review of the program to monitor the compliance of Mexican trucking companies with U.S. laws.
FMCSA maintained that it is ready to move forward with the NAFTA provision, which had been planned to begin in 1995 but delayed due to safety concerns.
“Development of our safety programs has been guided by, but not limited to, the 22 requirements that Congress included in the 2002 Act,” FMCSA Administrator John Hill stated in prepared remarks before a House transportation subcommittee in mid-March. “We welcome the ongoing involvement of the Inspector General and any ideas he may have to improve the effectiveness of the program.
“By granting authority to a limited number of Mexican carriers and monitoring them closely throughout the duration of the project, we will be able to monitor and evaluate the adequacy of the safety systems we have developed to address the concerns raised since 1995.”
But sponsors of the bill offered sharp criticism of the demonstration project.
“Several unanswered questions remain about whether the necessary systems are in place today to hold Mexico-domiciled motor carriers in the same strict federal standards that govern U.S. commercial truck operations, including hours-of-service, drug testing, and criminal background checks for drivers hauling hazardous materials,” stated Rep. Oberstar.
DOT noted that the demonstration project does not include Mexican carriers that haul hazmat cargo, provide bus transportation of passengers, or operate longer combination vehicles.
On the Senate side, an amendment has been attached to the emergency war supplemental bill that would effectively delay the demonstration project. Read Mexican trucks targeted in supplemental bill. President Bush has vowed to veto that bill.
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