Voting 74-24 in favor of a special amendment to the FY 2008 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D- N.D.), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the U.S. Senate officially cut off funding for the cross-border trucking pilot program activated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) just days ago Sept. 6.
“The vast majority of truckers in America are mobile small business owners, [so] it’s critical that we take a further look at the economic hardship small independent truckers will face if the playing field changes,” said Sen. Kerry, Chairman of the committee on small business and entrepreneurship. “The [cross-border trucking] program undermines American workers and small business owners – and this amendment puts their interests first.”
The appropriations amendment prevents FMCSA from using any funds for the cross-border pilot program that launched on Sept. 6 to allow Mexican trucks to operate beyond the designated commercial zone in the U.S. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a similar amendment as part of deliberations on its version of the FY 2008 transportation appropriations bill – one that also removed funding for the cross-border pilot program.
In a press statement, FMCSA Chief Administrator John Hill decried the Senate’s move. "Tonight’s decision by the Senate is a sad victory for the politics of fear and protectionism and a disappointing defeat for U.S. consumers and truck drivers,” he said. “This decision robs consumers of significant new savings, deprives drivers of new opportunities to compete in Mexico and squanders millions in taxpayer dollars Congress has spent to put in place a sophisticated safety network for border crossings.”
Other groups didn’t see it that way. “Congress has said enough is enough,” stated Todd Spencer, executive vp of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). “They’re tired of the [Bush] administration’s efforts to force the pilot program on the American people. Our nation’s safety and security should never be put at risk.”
“The American people have spoken, and Congress has spoken,” said Jim Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union. “Now it's time for the Bush administration to listen. We don’t want to share our highways with dangerous trucks from Mexico.”
Hoffa stressed that this legislative action is only the beginning of the union’s fight against cross-border trucking. The Teamsters have a lawsuit pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco –- due to be heard Nov. 19 – which seeks to quash cross-border trucking with Mexico on a more permanent basis. “Since Congress has only blocked funding for a year, the Teamsters will continue the fight against this unwise, unsafe program,” he said.