A group of Democratic U.S. Senators, including former vp candidate Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, are asking President George W. Bush to reconsider a plan to allow Mexican trucks full access to U.S. roads. The 10 senators said in a letter dated Monday that while they support NAFTA, they have safety concerns about the trucks operating on U.S. roads without safety checks for 18 months.
Granting access “could seriously jeopardize highway safety, road conditions and environmental quality,” the letter said. The public has until July 2 to comment on Pres. Bush’s proposal. Transportation officials want the rules finished in time to let the trucks operate in the U.S. before the end of the year.
The proposal would require all Mexican trucks to apply for permission to operate in the U.S. A safety audit would follow within 18 months.
The Clinton administration, citing safety concerns but also under pressure from unions representing U.S. truckers, refused to implement the provisions. Currently, Mexican trucks are limited to a 20-mile zone north of the border where their loads are transferred to American trucks.
In addition to Lieberman, the letter was also signed by Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Richard Durbin of Illinois.
A NAFTA arbitration panel ruled in February that the U.S. in violation of the treaty, and Pres. Bush pledged to comply. The senators said they think Pres. Bush has legal latitude to reconsider his decision, despite the panel's ruling.